We're in a pretty wild time here in the collaboration, communication, and content market. For example, content management has gotten a new lease on life thanks to Microsoft SharePoint, Google Apps has everyone rethinking how to deliver productivity suites, and Cisco has decided it wants to do hosted e-mail. With that in mind, here are some possible scenarios that will further disrupt this market. (Note: these are all possible; whether they will occur I have no idea. However, part of an analyst's job is to play "what if" games as a way to think through market dynamics.)
Microsoft offers Word, Excel, and PowerPoint over the web: I had a reporter e-mail me this rumor yesterday. It's not that farfetched; Microsoft certainly knows that its software-based Office suite is under attack by SaaS players such as Google, ThinkFree, and Zoho. The gotcha with most of the current SaaS-based challengers is that they can't match the feature richness of Office. The challengers, of course, pass that off as a plus--"You don't need all that stuff, it just complicates your world"--but try and tell that to a financial analyst who depends on all sorts of arcane features within Excel.
Given that reality, if Microsoft goes this route I would not be surprised if it builds the web-based version in Silverlight. Something similar to this has been done before--last year, Virtual Ubiquity was showing a gorgeous word processor built in Flash that put all Ajax-based word processors to shame. Adobe bought Virtual Ubiquity towards the end of last year, and that move wouldn't have been lost on Microsoft. If Microsoft does build a Silverlight version of Office, it will have a credible answer to Google Apps (assuming that Microsoft matches or beats Google's $50 per user per year pricing, which is a big if, given Microsoft's penchant to squeeze its customers for money) and basically wreck any dreams of Adobe to move into the productivity apps space.
Cisco buys Yahoo!, sells the ad business to Microsoft: Cisco's recent purchase of PostPath is a signal that Cisco is going after the Exchange hosting business. Cisco already offered a SaaS-based e-mail system, since it bought WebEx and inherited WebEx Web Office. However, Cisco wanted more than that--it wanted a SaaS-based e-mail system that would work with an Outlook client. Hence its purchase of PostPath.
SaaS solutions require a major hosting infrastructure. One quick way to grow that would be for Cisco to buy Yahoo!. Then Cisco could turn around and sell the ad part of the business to Microsoft. Microsoft gets the ad business it wants, Google has to worry about Microsoft more, and Cisco's collaboration strategy gets a shot in the arm.
Google buys Salesforce.com: Frustrated at its slow penetration of the enterprise market, Google finally says, "Enough!" and buys Salesforce.com as a way to gain expertise in developing for and selling into the enterprise market. With that, Google hosts even more corporate information on its servers (sending privacy advocates into a tizzy), improves the probability that Google Apps will eventually be adopted by enterprises, and increases its threat to Microsoft.
As I said before, I'm not sure any of these scenarios will come true, but they do highlight that, at this point, anything could happen.