William offers The Answer for Microsoft. I agree with the vision that’s articulated there, and as an industry we are much closer today than 5 years ago. Some quick thoughts, unpolished:
- Steve Ballmer has pointed out that Office strength comes from the fact that the average information worker spends more than 60% of their working hours inside applications shipped by Microsoft. That is the holy grail for competitors like Google/Yahoo. You want people living their lives inside your apps; you do this by finding new applications that people will spend time in, replicating vulnerable areas of the office suite, and so on.
- Dare reports from Web 2.0 that only 5% of user page time is spent in Search, while 40% is in content consumption and creation and 40% in communication. Most of the ad revenues are coming from search, since that’s where companies have learned how to monetize, but the fact is that “shared CMS” scenarios are a huge portion of people’s time, and thus a very attractive opportunity for the big web companies.
- Don’t assume Microsoft doesn’t get it. Wikis are all over inside the company, and the version of OneNote for Office 12 is like Wiki on steroids (allow simultaneous edits and offline experience). Microsoft’s main deviation from the ideal, IMO, is in “universal accessibility”. We need license revenues for client, so you only get the experience if you buy the product. Google has problems with “universal accessibility”, but for different reasons. Everyone still wants a walled garden. It’s getting easier to imagine zero-touch deployment and ad-funded versions of OneNote (which is just one example), so don’t write the vision off.
- While I believe the vision of “universal accessible shared CMS” is progressing nicely, it’s not going to come from Microsoft alone. And I think that this “universal canvas” is just the first step.
- The next step, after universal canvas, is something like a universal triple store/cloud. The people who think it’s about shared services and interfaces (or a grid) are wrong. Service-oriented grids may come in the interim, since they’re easier, but there is too much friction. There is nothing universal about a thousand different APIs from different vendors, and the data is the only thing that has value anyway. I’m not saying that SPARQL is the future (it’s not). But I agree with Dare that ning gives a hint of the future. To the extent that the developer interfaces are data-oriented (and simple and universal), you approach the next level. To the extent that the developer interfaces are behavior-oriented and type-bound, you are stuck in an expensive tower of Babel.