We all know that Yahoo, AOL, MSN and Google are competing with each other in providing individual web based services including IM, e-mail, calendar, maps, search, video conferencing, virtual meetings, collaborative video etc. The services they provide are targeted towards individual web users (including tech savvy and novice users). A novice computer user needs all these services with a word processor and a spreadsheet program. It would be no surprise if these companies are already investigating to build an online office suite.
Presently, these companies are letting us get accustomed to these services to help them test their products. There is nothing free in this world and once these services are completely developed, we will be made to pay. Some people call this foot-in-the-door marketing.
In about 3-5 years from now, a visit to one of these portals will require authentication which itself can be a retinal scan. They will provide ample storage space and tools to seamlessly share your documents/pictures/music/movie and folders. The other cool features could be high-resolution video conferencing, virtual meetings, collaborative applications etc. With the spread of high-speed networks and innovation in client/server-side technologies the performance of these portals will enhance tremendously and give an desktop like user experience.
Technology is the key to achieve the above mentioned user experience. Technically speaking user-experience is an aspect of client-side computing. In the recent past there had been great innovations in server-side and middleware technologies, but little has be done to improve client-side. But its very clear that presently the industry is focused on Avalon XAML, Ajax and similar technologies which utilize the client to achieve greater user experience. These technologies are in their initial stages and would take couple of years to get matured. I am sure thre are going to be some common frameworks built for Ajax and there by writing DHTML code by hand would become a thing of the past. Lets wait and see how things shape up in reality!