Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen says that the company will release a free, basic version of Photoshop as a Web-based application in the next six months. But as significant as that news is in and of itself, I think it's possible we'll look back at it as the beginning of one of technology's major sea changes.

For one thing, Photoshop will become the first big-name desktop application--or at least the first one that I can think of--to morph into a truly Web-based app. (Security software has been evolving in a service-oriented direction for awhile now, but there's still plenty of traditional client software involved.)

For another, I've more than once heard people explain that browser-based applications can't ever fully replace desktop software by confidently saying that it'll be a long, long time until we see a power-hungry program like Photoshop in online form. Adobe, apparently, doesn't agree with that contention.

There's still a lot we don't know about this new Adobe service, including exactly what it will and won't do, and what it'll be called. Presumably it'll be more akin to a junior-sized version of Photoshop Elements than to full-bodied Photoshop. But it should be interesting indeed.

I'm betting that we'll see numerous other traditional apps we're all familiar with sprout Web-based counterparts in the coming months. Heck, here's a specific prediction: I'll bet that before 2007 is over, Microsoft will launch some sort of online version of Microsoft Office that has more to do with Office than its Office Live service, which makes no attempt whatsoever to bring Word or Excel or Outlook online, does.

I might be wrong on the timing, or altogether wrong. But browser-based apps are maturing so quickly that it seems inevitable to me. There's sure no question that Microsoft must be thinking about such a move....

Side note: Here's a ZDNet blog with screengrabs of an upcoming Web-based word processor called BuzzWord. You can't really judge a service by screengrabs. But you can be really, really intrigued...and I am.

This blog first appeared on our sister site, PC World.