Cloud computing is nothing new. Email has always been “in the cloud,” especially IMAP which allows you to have your desktop email mirror that of your online mailbox and sync mailboxes across multiple computers. Many so-called “cloud” computing solutions are much less impressive by comparison, since they really only exist in the cloud — and lack easy ways to access your data offline or across platforms, except via a web browser.
Sometimes the online solution is so elegant we don’t really mind. Flickr, Gmail, Delicious, etc. are all so good I rarely use them outside of the browser, even though they support various desktop clients through their API.
Sometimes, however, the ability to access the data in different ways is the killer feature. For instance, Evernote is like this. What makes Evernote so great is that it is essentially IMAP for your notes, web clippings, and other errata.
One category of applications which cries out for being in the cloud is task management. If you are a mac user there are a number of excellent task mangers you can choose from: Things, OmniFocus and the newly released The Hit List are all very polished applications. But they aren’t in the cloud. This really sucks for several reasons: Although Things and OmniFocus let you sync with your iPhone, and there are ways of syncing your data across computers (for instance, using Dropbox), it means one can’t easily collaborate with other people on a project. It also means you cant easily incorporate the web into your GTD work flow. Yes, you can link to mail and web pages in the notes pages of these various apps, but it could be much, much, tighter if these apps existed in the cloud. For instance, one could see your todolist next to your e-mail in Gmail.
There are cloud applications which exist in the cloud: Remember the Milk, Toodledo, Ta-Da List, Vitalist, GTDInbox etc. Remember the Milk is one of the most fully featured with Gmail gadgets, iPhone apps, etc. However, almost all of these applications pale in comparison to the desktop applications for the mac. I find Things to be the most elegant of the lot, the one that gets in your way the least, requiring you to do the least amount of configuration to simply use it and get on with your life. Remember the Milk, on the other hand, is a graphic user interface nightmare. In fact, if it wasn’t for third party applications and the fact that you don’t need a pro membership to use or access shared lists, I would never consider using their horrid website.
What this means is that the market is wide open. The first person who can provide the kind of experience offered by the best OS X GTD applciations in an online solution that is as elegant as Gmail or Evernote will have a hit on their hands. Till then I’m stuck using Things on my computer and iPhone, and Remember the Milk for collaborative projects. But this really sucks because one of the central tenants of GTD is that you only have one single inbox for all your actions, and currently I have two. Actually, more than that, because Remember the Milk is so crappy that each individual list I create for sharing essentially functions as its own individual inbox.
One possible solution is Chandler, which also has Chandler hub for online sync. I last checked it out a long time ago, and I’m not sure how its developed since then. But it seems like something to keep an eye on. Anyone know of other solutions?