The movement toward on-demand software is gathering pace, as further indicated by the latest big-media piece in Business Week about the race between Oracle, Microsoft and SAP to dominate online offerings servicing the big end of town.

The small end is already full of useful social and collaborative offerings. And then there are of course, Google and Yahoo! persistently one-upping each other, both by acquisition and through embellishment of their competing and increasingly integrated mail and calendaring offerings. And Microsoft ain’t far behind with its Live offering.

Having sampled Google’s new calendar, I, for one, can’t wait until synchronisation between it and Outlook’s calendar is full and fluent, so I can dispose of another chain to my desk. As for email, I long since made the switch over to Gmail, with little obvious cost. And with Writely, Google’s also made available a most useful means of creating and collaborating with others on word-processed documents. Neat indeed.

With new apps coming on line such as youSENDit, the obstacle to shifting big files between users without ftp has also become as simple as sending an email, but without that channel’s chokepoints.

So now, what about the rest of my desktop artillery? Or my off-site storage requirements?

Seems to me that the ideal situation for most would be to be able to log in to any favoured application, from anywhere, and create and store files in their own space. In short, to have their complete desktop on the web. As your sometime correspondent on matters FileMaker, probably my most-used application, I would certainly kill to have those key files available at a single destination, all the time, and to develop wherever I worked with the guarantee of the most recent version of my work always available.

But to have your virtual desktop available 24/7 requires something well beyond simple hosting, and it may be that we have to wait until fully-fledged grid computing kicks in. Nevertheless, this is a service I would pay for – on strict condition that the service provider was able to offer access to each and any application I demanded, and not just a limited subset, or substitutes. It’s in no-one’s interests to have to jump between providers with different application sets if you need to trade information between all files created in a range of applications for a specific project.

Of course, there are workarounds for such requirements, such as logging in remotely to your other machine via MyWebExPC, or similar, but this means keeping two machines running rather than one. Quite apart from concerns for environmental sustainability, I need not tell you why there is a host of reasons why this also might not provide a fully workable solution.

I am certainly not the first to articulate such a computing heaven. So, now the race is on and the big guys have thrown their hats in, who is going to step up and provide the little guys’ vision of nirvana?