How to stay online no matter where you are

If you do need extra features, Google's Apps Premier is now available, and Google's new App Engine offers a development platform similar to Amazon's Web Services.

If Google's offerings don't cut the mustard with you, take a look at Buzzword and Zoho Sheet for word processing and spreadsheets. Adobe also now offers Photoshop online.

The tools that we all need to become digital nomads are finally slotting into place, but perhaps it's not a lack of tools that's preventing us moving our work from our desktop and into the cloud. Perhaps we need a widespread change in attitude to the data that we create and the access that we need to the information sphere we all inhabit in order for the migration to take place.

It probably won't be a complete migration, however; and to this end, handy tools like GoToMyPC and WebEx PCNow make it possible to access your home PC when on the move.

Backpackit, Basecamp, Writeboard and Ta-da List all come from one innovative company that is placing a number of desktop utilities online.

Protopage gives you a web page that can contain a wide range of information including news feeds and links. Getting feedback on a piece of work is also now possible with Backboard, and RIAs (Rich Internet Applications) are helping to break down the barriers between the webtop and the PC desktop.

If you don't want to rely on 'webtop' apps, you can take your favourite programs and their associated data with you. PortableApps is a selection of applications that run from any USB memory stick, and moving the OpenOffice suite of apps – which has developed into a formidable challenge to Microsoft's dominance of the office software market – is both fast and easy.

Corsair's 32GB Flash Survivor offers bombproof storage for your apps and data that you can take with you on the road. USB sticks can also be made smarter. U3 includes a Windows Launchpad that gives you much more control over programs and data on the stick.

Ceedo is another virtualisation system for your USB stick, and it offers varieties for enterprise and personal users.

What these technologies essentially enable you to do is throw off the straitjacket of smaller mobile device capacities. The Internet has become the growth medium that has allowed these technologies to develop.

Its common interface, OS neutrality, infinite adaptability and ability for perpetual upgrades means that it is now a familiar working environment for millions of people.

Death of the desktop

Traditional methods of funding application purchasing are changing. Applications on the webtop are free and are offering what Tim O'Reilly – the founder of O'Reilly Media who is credited with coining the term 'Web 2.0' – calls 'perpetual upgrades'. New features simply appear the next time you log on to these webtop services.

The effect of this perpetual upgrade system is that traditional boxed software is now giving way to subscription-based models. The news earlier this year that the mighty Microsoft was to offer a subscription offer for its Office application suite wasn't really a shock. Instead, it was simply an inevitable consequence of the webtop march.

Codenamed 'Albany', this is how Microsoft's all-you-can-eat subscription package is described by Group Product Manager Bryson Gordon: "We asked consumers what they needed and wanted most on their PC, and the overwhelming response was that they primarily want productivity and security software.

Consumers also expressed frustration at having to spend time and effort installing different types of software, keeping current on new versions and getting the software set up on their computers.

"We're just making it really convenient and painless for consumers to get up and running in just a few mouse-clicks with the best-in- class Microsoft Office suite that they love, and software and services that they've told us are indispensable to getting the most out of their PC, while staying up to date with the latest versions of their software without having to purchase subsequent versions."