Some eight years ago, there was this start-up called vJungle, setup right next to a Microsoft building in Bellevue, WA. The company targeted small and medium businesses for its product - a suite of on-line applications from email, calendar, document repository to payroll. It had everything and more that Google Apps for your domain has now. Well, almost everything. It didn't have document or spreadsheet editor as part of suite. Other than that, it had a chat window within the browser, a web-site creator application, domain name registration etc., The company had the vision for the product - all that a small business needs. It had the people who could pull it off. It had the processes and the culture from Microsoft as the engineering and management team was predominantly ex-Microsoft folks. It was going fine in 2000 and the fall started in 2001. Funding was hard to come by and then 9-11 happened. After a lot of struggle it was acquired by an European company which also didn't do well.
I feel vJungle was a bit too early for the days. It integrated with a payroll processing company based at Texas, an e-commerce product called Kurant and with fax processing service provider. Each service integration was unique, but I guess that was probably the start for Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). There was also use of XmlHttp which is now called as Ajax, but am not able to recollect which service of vJungle used the technology.
Overall, it had everything to make a useful good product - the team, technology and culture. What it lacked was the clarity on how to make money with such a product. I guess this problem is still unresolved. Though Google offers these apps, I am sure, Google must be funding this division with its hard-earned money from Adwords.
The other reason why vJungle didn't take off was the bandwidth limitation of those days. It was the days of 56K, and most small businesses wouldn't have had a T1 line.
I usually do not think of the bygone era, but vJungle makes me a bit sad as vJungle's target market is still there to be serviced.