To me the release of Google Spreadsheet and the purchase of Writely was a turning point. This means without a doubt what we all knew, Google is competing directly with Microsoft in a very evident way. This same battle, has been attempted by many, particularly by the operating systems Mac and Linux before. What's different this time then?
I believe the huge difference this time is Google is looking at things totally out of the box. They believed in the web and embraced the platform. They re-invented web search and they provided a variety of tools that eventually will make web a self-sufficient platform. Some day, following the Google paradigm, we will be getting to any device web enabled with a simple browser of any kind and we'll be doing all we need to do for our daily tasks. Once this is true, we got complete independence from the operating system, we freed ourselves from the operating systems battle and the battle will be happening completely on the web platform arena. New computers will provide the cheaper operating system out there as it really will be un-important which operating system you're using. Computers won't need so much processing power, storage capacity, etc, it will be a comeback of the server power and a total minimization of the thin client (which makes a lot of sense applying the concepts of Grompone on dialectics and double negation, I'll come back to this in some other post). It looks like Microsoft got the message as well as they declared some time ago (in 2006!!) the web as primordial priority for their company. Probably, I would think, too little, too late ...
In order to accomplish this Web Platform Paradigm there are many issues that need to be faced. Some of them I can think right now: security of the data, extent of the data stored (we need higher amounts of data out there which means users might need to get used to pay for their storage space), users need to feel like they own their data by being able to backup and export to different service providers.
Once the web platform gets established in users minds and hearts there is one great advantage that Google has and it looks to me like it's being over-viewed (but of course I don't know what is happening behind the scenes ;). They have all these applications but they have very little coupling among them. I'm talking of applications connectivity, I want to see emails suggesting links to Google Maps, suggesting creating a Google Calendar appointment, document attachments being opened in Writely and spreadsheets opened in Google Spreadsheets, etc. I've been waiting for this to happen with the suite of Windows products for a long time, and I know Google is closer now as they already have the AutoLink functionality in their Toolbar. The AutoLink functionality if implemented in a Web Browser itself or at least between Google applications would be amazing, specially if some day we end up having the Semantic Web. Right now it's like we have applications (tables in a simile with relational database world) but we can't link to other applications as we should. To me applications need to grow in the same direction relational databases did. SOA might be part of the answer, but we definitely are in time to think of applications interconnectivity.
To me it's really awesome to see a company going with such resolution and great execution in this direction. I personally believed and embraced the web since the early years when DHL's tracking system was an example to follow, one of the first dynamic database web applications out there. Years later I still see a great opportunity for the web and those who believe in it.