The PC revolution was about everyone getting their own computer and running their own applications. The Application Service Provider (ASP) model is about bringing all this under control, by using the universal connectivity of the internet to run applications professionally and centrally, often outsourced to a third party.
The ASP concept has had a rollercoaster ride. At the hight of the boom 5 years ago, ASPs were going to be the next big thing. Then the boom deflated and most ASPs disappeared. A couple survived, most notably Salesforce.com, and suddenly the ASP model has become so fashionable that now I hear you cannot get funding for a new software venture unless your proposal has a service delivery component.
I am starting to appreciate the ASP model. Last week the disk on my work laptop started to die. At first the symptom was that a couple of applications did not work. Unfortunately the applications were email with calendering and IM, so I was lost, not knowing what I was supposed to be doing and unable to communicate with anyone. It took a day and a half to identify that the problem was the disk and not the applications, another day to identify that the disk was beyond repair so I needed to get a new one, a day to get the new disk and another day to get it installed and set up. So I was without my computer for a week.
The good news was that we use Lotus Notes at work which is run on the ASP model from centralized servers configured for high availability and reliability. As soon as we figured out that it was a hardware problem, I got a loaner laptop, connected it to the Notes server and was back in business with email, calendar and IM.
I was secptical of ASPs at first, but seeing how well it worked for my recent problem, I am starting to see the point of having professionally managed services delivered from centralized servers over the internet.