Startup launches Web OS, free software suite

Software startup myWebOS.com yesterday launched a new operating system designed to run applications that can be accessed over the Internet using a Web browser.

Software startup myWebOS.com yesterday launched a new operating system designed to run applications that can be accessed over the Internet using a Web browser.

The company also released the first applications for its operating system, a productivity suite called Hyperoffice 2000. The suite, which is available for free from the vendor's Web site, includes applications for word processing, e-mail, and calendaring, Shervin Pishevar, president and chief executive officer of myWebOS, said today in a phone interview.

MyWebOS plans to release the programming interfaces for its operating system, which is also called myWebOS, in the hope that other software vendors will write applications for it. Those vendors are expected to charge users a rental fee for the use of their software, and myWebOS hopes to make money by taking a cut of those fees, Pishevar said.

The company is part of a trend whereby software is increasingly being offered as a service rather than a product. Proponents of the leasing model, including Sun Microsystems and Oracle., say renting software online can save customers the hassle and expense of loading, upgrading and managing applications on a myriad of desktop clients. The model also allows users to access their data and applications from any computer using a Web browser, and can help businesses compensate for the current shortage of skilled IT labor, proponents say.

However, analysts suggest that many users have reservations about accessing applications over the Internet. Some users are concerned about the security of entrusting their data to a third-party firm, while others fear that the Internet is too unreliable to act as a lifeline to their important applications and data, according to a recent report on the topic from Forrester Research Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Pishevar brushes those criticisms aside.

"These people said the same things about buying on the Internet five years ago. They said people would never want to give their credit card numbers online," he said. "People will be afraid initially, but once they see the tremendous benefits they'll move to the new paradigm.

"Our vision in founding the company was to turn software into a utility," Pishevar added. "Customers will be able to rent applications on a per-use basis, much as they pay for water or electricity."

Apparently some investors share the company's vision. MyWebOS recently secured more than US$10 million in funding from three investment firms, the company said today. One of the investment firms, Impact Venture Partners, was set up by Adam Dell, the younger brother of Dell Computer Corp. founder Michael Dell.

MyWebOS is also stirring up support for its products among third-party software vendors. Supporters of the company's operating system include Dialpad.com, a vendor of software for making long-distance telephone calls from a computer, and Orbit Commerce Inc., which develops software for building electronic commerce sites, myWebOS.com said in a statement issued today.

The company will face competition from the likes of Sun's StarOffice, a productivity suite being offered free to users online, as well as San Francisco-based desktop.com, another closely held startup company, which offers a service that allows users to access Web-based applications from its Web site.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Corp., the king of desktop software, said recently that it will make its forthcoming Office 2000 software suite available for rent online. The move was seen by many at the time as a defensive response to the growing interest in applications hosting.

MyWebOS, in Baltimore, Maryland, can be contacted at +1-410-332-0945, and on the Web at http://www.mywebos.com/.

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