It seems like just about everybody, whether it's Google, Microsoft or Zoho.com, is looking to provide end users with some form of access to a shared set of productivity applications on the Web.
The trouble with these approaches is that the Google and Zoho approaches require end users to learn a new application. Meanwhile, the version that Microsoft plans to roll out on the Web to compete with Google is not generally available just yet and nobody is quite sure to what degree Microsoft will compromise the feature set of the Office applications it delivers on the Web compared to what end users are used to on the desktop.
The question that IT people are asking themselves is how they give end users access to a collaborative environment using the Office applications as they currently know them and frequently use. One company trying to solve that problem in the context of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets is Pagos, which intends to formally roll out later this month a shared service on the Web called SpreadsheetLIVE that is a Web-based implementation of Microsoft Excel.
Collaboration using Microsoft Excel has become a critical requirement for most companies. In fact, when most people talk about using productivity applications on the Web to collaborate with one another, they are really talking about shared access to a spreadsheet. Rather than being required to give up Microsoft Excel in order to collaboratively work together using an unfamiliar database or business intelligence application, most end users would prefer to simply see the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet paradigm move as-is to the Web.
To accomplish that, Pagos, with Microsoft's permission, has rewritten the underlying Excel engine to support collaboration. Initially, SpreadsheetLive will be available as a service on the Web, but by the end of the year Pagos will give customers the option of deploying SpreadsheetLive on their own internal servers.
Right now, Pagos has 15,000 customers beta testing the service online, which is a process that is open to all. So the only question this brings up then is why anybody needs to wait for Microsoft to collaborate using Excel on the Web tomorrow when you can already get most of that capability from Pagos today.