Yesterday, an email was sent to the OpenOffice developers that proclaimed the development of a new version of OpenOffice -- one that's going to be available via the web. Using a technology that's been in development for 3 years already, Gravity Zoo Framework, a special programming library aimed at online functionality for applications, OpenOffice developers will begin to port the application's source code so that it will be accessible from the Internet.
Google recently announced that they plan on developing an entire office suite of applications accessible for the web. However, OpenOffice's project will be uniquely different from that of Google's, as this is not simply going to be a "server or client ". Instead, it will be developed to allow it to be run "in the network, and become accessible from practically any device via an IP network."
One of the largest benefits for users of this port would be the ability to work together on a project -- they'd be able to work together without fear of overwriting one another's work. Being a web application, I'd assume that modified data would be updated in real time for the other users working on the project.
To be truthful however, I'm a little bit curious about how easy the actual coding will be -- especially porting the GUI. The author of the email acknowledges this:
Porting of existing applications is straight forward in most cases, because the essential business logic can be maintained and the main adaptations take place in the graphical user interfaces.
The speed is also a concern, I would think. For 2 reasons: a) OpenOffice is still slower than Microsoft Office, at least from my experiences. b) Going over a network definitely isn't going to make things any faster, and let's not forget that many people will be wanting to run this over the internet, which will be even slower.
I expect that the web version of OpenOffice will be scaled down a little bit, because including all the features which are currently implemented under OpenOffice as of this writing would simply make the web-based version a monster of an application.
Regardless of these downfalls, it's hard to discount the usefulness of an application that's available all the time, from any computer equipped with web access, and doesn't require any hard disk space to save your documents. It'll be interesting to see how this turns out.