Trend: Software as a service is about to become much more visible as web-based office software (word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications) become functional and available.
Richard MacManus at ZDNet describes why web-based office software is coming and why it will be good for most businesses. Excerpts below.
That's a key point - that office tools on the Web are about enabling users to more easily share information and collaborate. It's something existing desktop office tools are woefully inadequate in. Ever tried to email a Word document to 10 of your colleagues and then keep track of changes or suggested changes?
So here's where a Web-based word processing tool would come in handy. Imagine being able to view the latest version of a collaborative Word document, via your browser window. Instead of using emails to discuss the document, it's all done in one place - the URL of your online Word document. All changes are neatly tracked and versioned. Collaboration is happening, because there's a single point of reference on the Web - and it's not email!
Another positive for Web-based office software is that it makes integrating with other web-based software easier, via open Web standards and formats.
... "Web Office is cheap", which it certainly is compared to those large licensing fees your company is probably paying Microsoft currently! Plus as some commenters on Slashdot noted, deploying office software ONCE on a server is much more efficient than deploying hundreds or thousands of instances on desktops. It's also easier to do upgrades and backups.
Business decision makers are interested in productivity - and Web Office software potentially increases that.
All of these are sound reasons to gradually move toward the Web Office Suite. Note that I do say gradually. This isn't something I see happening overnight, precisely because of the challenges that some Slashdot commenters pointed out. There are issues of Internet performance and security which need to be addressed. There are also office politics and employment stresses to deal with, because Web-based office software will result in a relative loss of control for IT departments and the decreased admin work may even result in job losses.
The shift from controlled, seemingly more secure IT systems to open, modular Web-based systems is great in theory - but there are many practical and business challenges that prevent this shift happening in businesses in the short term. I expect it to take more than a few years for even early adopter businesses to move to a Web Office