I think we all knew it was coming and there have certain have been previous attempts to deliver the corner stone applications of word processing and spreadsheets online but they have all just been warm-ups compared Google's efforts. For a while now one could access and use Google Docs & Spreadsheets and in the usual Google fashion they have evolved the offering quietly and thoughtfully.
Then in the last year they have packaged the offering into Google Apps, which is in short an online office productivity suite with hosted email, single sign-on and swag of other online goodies. They have backed this up with a pricing model which appears simple and workable, basically a per user annual fee. Now this all very nice and in someways impressive especially considering the quality of the Google word processor and spreadsheet, but what got my attention is some of the other technologies Google are playing with at the same time.
Namely Google Gears, for those that don't know, the vision here is offline access to a web application, yes a local copy that can be synchronised back to the web application. Added to this what I consider one of the best if not the best API in the industry, it does not take intellectual giant to see where all this is going. Granted that Gears can not really be easily used for Docs and Spreadsheet because you need more a file system rather then a DB achieve this type of stuff but the seed has been planted.
For reasons I have stated above coupled by the fact there is just so much offered now by the Google API/s I think that anyone that is in the process of designing a productivity and/or collaboration application needs to consider how can they leverage the services that Google is offering.
I can hear all the objections now! Let me answer some of those questions:
One can not use or leverage the google services in a commercial application because you can't build a organisation off open source free stuff and service out there on the net, you need solid contractual terms that you can rest upon.
We need some kind of SLA or assurance that they will provide these services and will be there tomorrow.
At the time of writing the market cap is 162Billion and more importantly they have a net profit margin of 27% which is based upon business model that they offers these service within, one can take a degree of comfort that they might outlast any application that relies upon them.
They don't offer anything that we can't build ourselves.
At the risk of using a buzz word 'SOA', why reinvent the wheel?
Anyhow you get the idea, my core point is that Google is becoming more then a search engine and their services can be leveraged not only by web sites but by commercial corporate applications.