A World of Free Online Apps
Things will get more exciting for entrepreneurs when we all start walking around with new Internet-ready portable devices such as the Nokia 770 Internet tablet or smartphones such as the Motorola Q and Nokia E61.
These pocket-size monsters with keyboards, luscious displays, and brisk 3G connections will soon replace laptops. All they need are browsers that can access Web-based software as easily as your desktop can. (I already use a Nokia E61 to help manage my website and write short blog posts from within the phone's browser. Soon I'll be able to run the whole site from my phone's browser.)
If you're a developer or startup, you are suddenly free to write a browser-based application and quit worrying about which operating system, chip, or device your consumers are using.
It's a scary thought for anyone who built a business around proprietary formats. But for the end user, this is the kind of future that Andreessen on his best days - and maybe Gates on his worst - had envisioned.
It's pretty clear that MS fended off the late-90s threat of Office-in-the-cloud. What's not clear is whether Google, Zoho, and others will produce something compelling enough to attract the mainstream enterprise market away from MS Office. For one thing, any office product will have to ensure data is secure to gain serious market share, and that probably means a server appliance running inside the firewall. Strong compatibility with MS-Office formats will be another key factor.