A friend of mine hates the state of computing today. He points out that it's developed by geeks for geeks, and the rest of the world has to bend to our twisted way of thinking. Really, computers should be more than just ubiquitous, they should be invisible. They should bend to the needs of humans, not the other way around.
One of the areas where this is actually making strides forward is in the area of always accessible data. As my friend would say, "Why should I have to manage three or four address books? I shouldn't! The computer, my home phone, my cell phone, and all of the apps on them should be able to get what I need from one central place where I keep that data." So true.
APIs for cross-application development and mashups are getting us closer to that kind of thing, and tools like OpenID and OAuth are also moving us in the right direction. But, what about that data thing? How can I have my data in one place?
One possibility is the advent of serious online storage solutions and wifi based file sharing through applications like *Fring. There's a blog article about just that at the Fring site called "Is Fring the missing link for mobile online storage services?". Yeah, I think that it can be.
We're still a long way from where my friend dreams, but I truly believe that we are in the midst of an evolution that is heading in that direction. One side of me says that we shouldn't be too impatient because all of these things are moving forward one step at a time, but on the other hand, it's precisely the impatience of developers and entrepreneurs that is pushing us forward in this evolution so quickly.
The next time you look at the design of an application you are working on, ask yourself: "How is this going to tie in with the computing needs of the user at home, on their smart phone, in the car... and everywhere else they are computing?" And "Can we make it work together with a single data source and invisible syncing?" Because if you can deal with those two issues now, you are going to put your app ahead of the curve and make it that much more invaluable to your end user. Which might just be yourself. (or me!) ;)
*Just so you know: I work for Fring now. :)