Now that office software is becoming a big part of the Web landscape, we're starting to see widgets (i.e. mini web apps) appear that have office functionality. The personalized start page Pageflakes has just introduced a couple of new office "flakes", which is their term for widgets. The new ones are a Calendar Flake and a Notepad Flake. They also have an existing Mail Flake, as well as flakes for Writely and iRows. So it seems they're working their way towards a little widget office suite!
That may sound odd at first, but when you think about it - componentized web apps are potentially very useful on a company Intranet.
A couple of Pageflakes Office widgets
Netvibes has much the same as Pageflakes, with modules for email, calendar, Writely, iRows and more. The other start pages have similar functionality - indeed Webwag has a default tab called "Office".
So the question is: what can you use a Web Office Start Page for? I must admit I don't use email within my start page - I use Gmail and it occupies the first tab in my browser 100% of the time. But with word processing and spreadsheets, there are certain files that I use frequently during the day (e.g. my timesheet) - and so having them available in my start page would be useful. Likewise with my calendar or a notepad.
Also it helps to think of a start page as like an Intranet dashboard, where you have the documents and files you use regularly either open - or a click away - in your dashboard.
I wrote about this back in September, when I noted the arrival of Google's Personalized Start Page for Enterprise - which I nicknamed its 'instant intranet'. It is one of the options available in Google's Apps For Your Domain service. Also included in the package is email, IM, calendar and website creator - with Docs & Spreadsheets rumored to be in the mix in the future.
Here's how Google currently describes the start page feature on the 'Apps for your domain' homepage:
"The start page lets you easily create a unique, dynamic place for internal or external users to find relevant, essential information, preview their inboxes and calendars, and search the web. You customize the layout, header information and color scheme, as well as the page's default content, which can include Google Personalized Homepage modules, your organization's custom content and links, and RSS feeds. After users log in, they can further customize the start page so it's just right."
So widgets that have office functionality - and their inclusion on Intranet dashboards - is probably where Google, Microsoft and the smaller players like Pageflakes and Netvibes are heading. Because as Web services become smaller and more componentized, it's natural that office software will take advantage of those trends.