Online services for the consumer has been just booming in the past 4 years but today Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and others are just taking online services to a whole new level. It is not just about the average consumer to consume those services it also spreads out to the enterprise and also to various vertical sectors. Imagine a university leveraging today's free online services to offload their infrastructure for applications like email, Instant messaging, blogging, and student communication.
If you haven't heard but Microsoft and Google are the top competitors now in that area. They both are trying to make sure their services are not just spread for the average consumer but also specific to the education sector.
I just love this approach that Microsoft took for Live @ Edu to collectively offer a single solution to universities and having products like Hotmail, Live Spaces, and IM being offered as a collective package.
Today also Office Live is creating new opportunities for live services for the small and medium businesses. You can go ahead create your own domain, host your emails, share files and create a collaborative work environment for free in just minutes :).
However, I still see new opportunities for those set of services to grow beyond email, social networking and Instant messaging. The Google initiative to go beyond that started now with Android, a set of API's for the mobile platform, and definitely the services that are today used over the web will extend to the mobile.
There are also other initiative to promote those services through Developers and solution providers. Google started the open social API, that is now providing an opportunity to developers to enable solutions over different social networking platforms. Honestly, I like that approach getting all social networks together through a set of API's.
So where is Microsoft in all that? Well definitely I would say Dev @ Live started something similar but they need to push it further to bring together developers around a common platform. I love the new live API's, but still they are separate services, it would just be great to have it all as a single package of API's around a common objective rather than dispersed API's for each service.
Anyway there still more to come from the Live team, so I shall wait and see what is coming next for the developers and where would those free consumable API's lead developers too.