Why do people still work on office suites for the desktop? I can come up with two reasons: they think they can do better than Microsoft Office or they are idealistic and feel there should be an open source, free office suite. In case of the latter — it already exists, it’s called Open Office. In case of the former, listen to me. People don’t care if your office suite is better than Microsoft Office, everybody uses MS Office so so will they. Microsoft completely dominates the market so there is no point on beating them on features. You will never have the deals with businesses and computer manufacturers that they have so just give it up.
The same goes for web-based office suites. Although there is not the software distribution issue anymore, still the market will be dominated by one player. In this case it’s not likely to be Microsoft, but it will be Google. Google within a year or two changed to a software company. Their major strength? The Google brand. The web-based office suite market was exciting for a while, just as the web-calendar market was. Until Google bought Writely and launched Google Spreadsheets and Google Calendar and all of that was over. The battle was won. Just like with Microsoft before, if Google gets on your path you better run because you’re not going to win it. Honestly, if you were a novice in this area and wanted to do word processing on the web and you saw two options: Zoho Writer or Google Docs, which one would you choose?
Peepel is a new web office suite that just opened up its beta. It looks nice, clean, who knows, it might be better than Google Docs. But it’s irrelevant. It’s not Google, so it doesn’t matter. Maybe, maybe if it had some killer feature that Google Docs is missing, but “a true multiple windows system in an online desktop” is not going to do it. I’m sorry. People want to share their documents with other people. Before, that happened by e-mailing .docs, soon they will share a document through Google Docs.
The only place where web office suites will still matter are niches. A word processor for the blind, a word processor for the poet, a sound editor for the deaf. Hopefully they will be able to come up with better examples than these.