Desktoptwo. Wow!

* Desktoptwo from Sapotek, a very compelling attempt at a Web desktop

In Gearhead some time ago I spent a couple of columns discussing Web desktops. While most of these are probably still best considered experimental one or two of them show real promise not because they will supersede regular local PC desktops but because they can act as a useful and effective “home away from home.”

A new one that is perhaps the most compelling attempt at a Web desktop is Desktoptwo from Sapotek.

Desktoptwo is a Flash application that mimics, to an impressive degree, the look and feel of Microsoft Windows XP. It has a desktop, a “Start”-style menu, and a range of productivity applications and utility programs as well as one gigabyte of storage.

Desktop application icons are drag and drop and the applications include a POP3 e-mail client, an RSS news reader, a file browser, an address book, a Web site editor (an undocumented feature is the ability to publish your Desktoptwo HTML content using their Web server – drop me a note and I’ll tell you how!), a blog, instant messaging (as of writing it only supports chatting with other Desktoptwo or MSN users), an MP3 player, the Open Office suite, message boards, My Sitestwo (which allows you to save your favorite sites and share them with others Desktoptwo users), and Live Chat (for “chatting” with other Desktoptwo users).

What Sapotek have done is use a number of open source products to build Desktoptwo, which I think illustrates the power of open source thinking – a project like this would have been monumental without the contributions of so many other developers.

To run in your browser Desktoptwo requires cookies and browser popups to be enabled on your PC as well as Adobe® Flash® Player Version 9 and Java installed and optionally Adobe Acrobat if you want to be able to print from Desktoptwo.

Sapotek provide both and English and a Spanish version for free (!) and an enterprise version is planned.

So, what’s missing? Well, there are a lot of minor details such as a desktop trash bin, being able to reorder the start menu items; support for AOL Instant Messaging, Yahoo Messenger, or ICQ (the current IM support is Jabber-based which explains the limitations); no built-in browser, no import for calendar data, no help … but to get as far as Sapotek has is no mean feat – what it has achieved is amazing!

I asked Sapotek about its plans and pretty much everything I noted as missing is on its hit list. One feature that I think will really make Desktoptwo appealing to the corporate market is WebDAV support so that you will be able to move files easily to and from your Microsoft desktop to Desktoptwo.

But what is really exciting is that Sapotek plans to turn Desktoptwo loose on the world as open source! Sapotek CEO Joshua Rand wrote me, “It's always been our plan to liberate our code, as well as the Flash content (which is important [because] it will provide opportunities for the Flash designers to participate as well as the OSS programmers), once we had it all in fairly pristine condition. We've chosen to do that rather than dump on the community, like some others have done (we don't think that's right). Well, the time is coming soon and, quite frankly, it can't happen fast enough. Many of our users have inquired about the possibility of working with us and we're anxious to get started. Just putting some finishing touches on our UIs and other matters but the project will be announced within the coming weeks.”

This is the kind of opportunity that venture capitalists should be fighting over. Given the right support and resources Desktoptwo could be as revolutionary in the market as it is technologically!

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