Wow, Google is rolling out a massive number of improvements to Google Apps in a short amount of time! I count 87 entries so far on the blog for 2010, which is an average of ~10 per month.
This is a fundamental difference between true cloud computing and the hosting of applications. Quickbooks for example (not Quickbooks online which is not availabe in Canada), is an excellent accounting application but having it hosted doesn't elimininate the work of installing patches, learning the significant changes from the prior version, and preparing for any major impact to your current business processes. However, for certain businesses hosting Quickbooks in a data centre is a great option that eliminates the headaches of running your own servers, provides simple remote access, and ensures backups are stored offsite. At Interlockit.com we've helped customers move a variety of applications into data centres but we always do a cost comparison to the alternatives before making the recommendations. Sometimes the hardware or software requirements mean running it on the customer's own servers is the better option.
I like this analogy from one of the articles below: "Buying the services of a traditional hosting provider is like renting a set of electricity generators, whereas a cloud computing provider provides an electrical power grid. The idea is that a cloud computing provider makes it extra easy to treat computing resources like a pay-as-you-go utility service."
NetSuite, SuccessFactors, Salesforce.com, Freshbooks, these are all true cloud computing applications that provide continuous innovation for all of their customers. The learning curve is small because small changes are made on a continuous basis.
Remember the big learning curve when switching from Microsoft Office 2003 to 2007?
Subscribe to the Google Apps official blog to keep up with all the changes at http://googleappsupdates.blogspot.com/
Subscribe to the Microsoft Online Services/BPOS blog at http://blogs.technet.com/b/msonline/
For additional reading: