NuoMedia is a different sort of application service provider, one that wants you to truly ditch your desktop and move into a Web world. The service offers you all the applications you use on a daily basis: everything from your word processor to your calculator. But they all exist in a truly online format.
"We are striving to make software that is ubiquitous as a Web page," says Reginald Middleton, founder and CEO of NuoMedia.
And in fact, NuoMedia does have a true Web feel -- I felt as if I were surfing the Web rather than using a word processor when I checked out the beta service.
While most of the service is free, NuoMedia will be charging fees for extras such as storage space beyond 20MB, and a fee for guaranteed up-time for small businesses. Pricing hasn't yet been determined, and isn't likely to be set until the end of February, according to Middleton.
Take a deep breath
Creating a NuoMedia account is a simple process, but once you sign in, actually figuring how to use it takes some study.
Your main screen, where most services would present you with that virtual desktop, is simply another Web page. The company's logo is in the middle, surrounded by icons for all of the different applications that they offer.
You can opt to download the "installable files", which are not required but do speed things up. Once the download is complete (and it was very quick for me) you return to the page with the application icons and begin working.
But you aren't prompted to do this, which I found disconcerting. Here as elsewhere, NuoMedia assumes that you will know where to go and what to do. But the next step is not always obvious, and at times I found myself lost.
The applications themselves also look just like Web pages: typing a document on he word processor felt as if I were typing sentences into a blank Web page. Also note that the spreadsheet does not allow you to create graphs; instead you must use a separate graphing application, which has a small spreadsheet screen inside.
Where am I?
Navigating between applications takes a while to figure out, partly because you don't have a main desktop screen to call home.
Also, each application brings up a separate browser window, but you don't have your familiar browser bar along the top. A menu on the left side of your screen provides links to each of the applications and your file storage areas, and you must use this instead of your browser buttons.
Middleton explains that these links are one of the advantages of an HTML-based application. "With your desktop, it takes several clicks before you can open a word-processing document. You find the desktop, then you click on the icon, then you have to open the new document. With NuoMedia, you can do all this with one click."
In theory, this is true. But in practice I found it difficult to learn. In time, I could get accustomed to NuoMedia. But I found myself missing my familiar Windows desktop.