By Jared Newman | Monday, February 28, 2011 at 2:13 pm
Drund is the website equivalent of a two-way radio wristwatch. It’s cool in theory, but with everything else that’s available, you’ll have a hard time finding a use for it.
I’ve been playing around with Drund in a closed beta for the last couple of months. Starting today, Drund will allow up to 10,000 new users to sign up without an invitation.
Drund is a website that looks kind of like Microsoft Windows. There’s a desktop with icons for favorite apps and a start button on the bottom of the screen with even more apps and operating system functions, such as a file browser and settings. But unlike Windows, Drund stores nothing locally. Instead of a photos folder, there’s Flickr. Instead of Microsoft Office, there’s a suite of online productivity apps from Zoho. For entertainment, there’s an app that pulls in video from Hulu, Netflix and Amazon.
In a way, it all sounds kind of like Chrome OS, Google’s forthcoming attempt at a web-based operating system, but Drund is different because everything is self contained in a single browser window. The apps are specially-created representations of other web services, made to run in an operating system within an operating system. You could even run Drund within Chrome OS, as you could within a browser on any PC.
The question is, why would you?
During my time with the closed beta, I’ve struggled to answer that question. I like the idea of having a single browser window with widgets for my favorite sites, such as Gmail, Twitter and Facebook, but Drund’s adaptations of those sites aren’t as fully-featured as the originals. In Gmail, for instance, there are no custom labels or threaded conversations, and Facebook’s app is unable to access Groups or Places. There’s no way Drund can keep up with these services as they become richer in features.
What I like about Drund is how it feels like an operating system. This could just be my conditioning as a long-time Windows user, but the idea of a desktop — a virtual space that exists beyond an array of browser tabs — is something I’d have a tough time letting go of with Chrome OS. Drund’s own online storage solution also seems like a fitting replacement for a local hard drive. (I wish it worked a little better. Zoho’s office apps, for example, don’t include a way to import images from Drund’s storage drive or from other apps such as Flickr.)
But as someone who’s happy with Windows 7 and comfortable with existing web apps, I don’t really have a need for Drund’s web-based OS. The whole thing feels more like a neat proof-of-concept than a product that’s ready for consumers. Perhaps that’s why, in an interview, Drund founder Lee Yi spoke of seeking investments from a “strategic partner.” More than a pile of cash, Drund desperately needs developers to build new apps and to flesh out the existing ones. Of course, that’s what every new operating system needs.
If Drund can find a way to build on its concept and make its apps more useful, it may actually go somewhere. I’d love to have a web service that pulled up dozens of my favorite apps in a single window. For now, Drund is just kind of fun to look at.