If you wanted take a peek at where Web 2.0 is headed, you can do no worse than taking a test drive of one of Google's latest beta tools, dubbed Google Spreadsheets. I signed up for this online productivity tool a couple of weeks ago and after receiving my invitation, I delved right in and created a small spreadsheet and ran it through its paces.
Okay, this is no Excel. It harkens back to the early days of Lotus123 where spreadsheets were simple and had a fraction of bells and whistles of today's modern spreadsheet programs. There is an occasional response lag and the interface is somewhat constrained by the browser capabilities. Yet, I was still impressed by the clean look and the intuitive design. There is a decent list of functions available, and the spreadsheet can be saved and shared online. The upside of this tool is its ubiquity. Anywhere one can find a browser and an internet connection, the spreadsheets can be viewed and modified. No need to carry a spreadsheet program around or mess with confusing licensing requirements. Best of all, it's free.
I must assume that combined with its recent acquisition of Writely (an online word processor that has the same benefits of Google Spreadsheets) Google has its eye on the productivity tools market, dominated today by Microsoft Office. And Microsoft probably can't help but feel a bit threatened by this rapid march towards online tools.
One might be tempted to give most, if not all the credit to Web 2.0 and AJAX. After all, these are the technologies that are most notable in the stampede towards porting many applications online. But perhaps the true champions here are the Web and the Internet, and these seemingly new technologies are just natural milestones in the realization of the promise of the Web.
If you are tempted to dismiss these online tools as mere toys, too rudimentary to be taken seriously by real professionals, I must remind you of the early days of Windows. Windows still has many detractors, but its impact on business as a serious platform today can not be denied. These online products are just beginning to take shape. They are still very much in their infancy. As they mature with the Web, and that is inevitable, they will eventually change the application landscape as we know it today. Web 2.0 and AJAX might be a distant memory by then, but there is no stopping this revolution now.