A session with huuuuge implications first up today from Robert O’Callahan from Mozilla. He’s based in NZ but drives the rendering engine of Mozilla/FireFox. (Aside1: I think that it is completely cool that such a web significant thing is being built from a guys sun room in New Zealand - rocking!)
Firefox3 is going to deliver support for offline applications.
Why is this important? Because when you go offline you will still be able to interact with your applications. So in a webmail scenario, read your mail, write drafts. Web Calendars would work.
More importantly imagine the opportunity for Line of Business Applications. The Browser really does become the Operating System - with persistent storage.
This will allows richer SaaS applications and goes some what towards eliminating the offline scenario issue of web based applications. This makes Web apps even more compelling.
There are of course a bunch of issues, like leaving state on a machine so like all technologies its designing an implementation that works for your application requirements.
The good thing about his being led by Mozilla is that they will push their work out as standards. So the big question becomes what will Microsoft do?
Given the time cycle of Explorer releases MS will be playing catch up (and hopefully use the standards - a wildly optimistic scenario) or they will promote their own standard. What I think is interesting is that offline apps is so compelling for SaaS providers that it is likely SaaS providers will push Firefox as a preferred/mandatory platform for their apps. That would be a very powerful industry force that Microsoft would have to think hard about.
Listening to Robert I felt that we are still early on in Browser evolution. The Browser is the platform.
(Aside2: Mr Google Maps was in the room asking about control of page layout “send me an email and we can fix that” - did what I think just happen - just happen? In a room in Warkworth? While I was in the Room? Is the world this small?)