[AoyW] The 'Web Office' Is a Tiny Niche
The web has solved a lot of problems in the past decade, but has had little impact on personal and team computing. We're still banging away in MS Office and shoving docs around via email, or piling them up on file servers. Any number of web-based online services and intranet software products have been offered to change this. They have seen relatively low adoption. As Exhibit A, I offer this Alexa graph of well-known web office (aka Office 2.0) sites, including—for contrast—the popular sendspace.com email-attachment manager:
The Alexa numbers may well be inaccurate; what I find interesting are the trends of this graph. Why do they look so flat for all but email attachment distribution? I believe these services can't spread virally, unlike consumer web services, because business technology requires approval by management and IT staff. Management is leery of shipping confidential data out to web services run by a third party, and even if IT depts had ample time to evaluate new tools, they are uneasy about systems they can't control.
Certain "on-demand" apps like salesforce.com have made some headway among businesses which don't have the IT resources to deploy such solutions in-house. Management can approve outsourcing for capability which they couldn't otherwise access, e.g. CRM. But email is the only personal app which has made substantial headway as a service for businesses (perhaps because incoming email originates offsite anyway?).
Intranets.com, the biggest success of the Web 1.0 team sites, was acquired last year for $45M, a little more than they'd raised in venture cap. That was after six years of chasing users. Can an AJAX UI change the adoption curve of such sites? Check the trend lines on the graph for jot.com and projectpath.com (the most popular of five Basecamp domains), and draw your own conclusion.
The online web just isn't reaching a lot of users in this space, and server-based intranet solutions don't spread virally either, as end-users can't set up servers. The always-on-you web can change that.
The always-on-you web is any web app that runs on a user device (laptop, Wi-Fi smartphone, flash drive) and shares data with other users on a p2p basis. It's a web app that doesn't require an intranet or online server. It's a web app that the user carries, so it's always-on-you, as opposed to always-on(-if-you're-online). And it's a mechanism which can spread virally in a business environment, because users can deploy it themselves.