Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

Widget engine: a bridge between web and desktop applications

October 18, 2006

(sometimes I hate WordPress… Second time it loses all the post content and I have to write again… A summary will do I hope…)

Widget engines again… Google, Yahoo and other are creating an interest by adding small applications that link users’ desktops to online applications or websites.

The interest as described in previous post could be very strong once a business application of these system is in place.

If that happens how could other actors react? and who are these potential actors?

Given the fact widgets create a new link from users to (potentially) branded content, it is likely the technology will create an interest from others such as Microsoft…

And M! has already in place most of the required technology within M! Live Messenger: an application which supports authentication, multi channels and a notification engine. And this piece of software already runs on a lot of computers of the planet!!

So the only missing bit is the ability for M! engineers to integrate a widget engine based on html+css+js+ajax and to integrate it in Messenger. Given the development resources they have it doesn’t seem out of reach..

So maybe we could see M! playing as well with this technology in a near future, we never know.. Probably all will depend on the success of G! as M! seems more like a follower on the web these days (personal view:-)…

I’d be interested in your comments on the subject…

Google widgets and Office2.0

October 18, 2006

Google has released a new API for integrating its wdgets in any website. !!!!!!

Which impact can we expect from this news?

On the short term, probably not much except in personal home pages as most of these widgets are “cool” but not very useful, at least for commercial websites. It is unlikely we see these widgets soon on corporate portals, except maybe for some of them like map searches, etc..

However the impact will probably be to awake the web to this type of technology which is:

  • a piece of information displayed in component made of html and javascript (easy to write),
  • this type of component can run on the desktop, in a website or on google portal.

Obviously we don’t really want to include google stuff everywhere, but when product developers realise that they can apply the same type of technology for THEIR own components, then we can expect that the next wave, right after AJAX, will be based on a type of architecture where the content can be freed from website pages. Pieces of content will appear simultaneously:

  • in collaborative websites where users can manage them in a central place,
  • on desktops in widgets frameworks (google/Y! etc.) : so that we can be notified of any new article without opening the website (convenient as side popups can display news without distracting too much user’s attention)
  • in other syndicated websites: similar to RSS feeds which allow content notification to be displayed in RSS readers thus increasing the visibility of the content. We could also with this technology foresee websites exchanging applications modules as a kind of marketing tool. Content syndication will then not only be limited to xml or text forms but will include applications as well (just like Google maps are included in websites).

Is this impact limited to Google only?

probably not. We can expect Yahoo to release a web API and jump onto the mashup train. This new branding channel is too good to be left to a competitor…

This architecture will probably be most useful when provided by other “independent” widget frameworks such as http://www.widgetbox.com/ (mentioned in Reuters news).  although this one does not yet provide a desktop engine for running its widgets and then is limiting their use to online mashup pages only.

Conclusion:

this technology is not yet advanced enough for commercial use but will probably be added to the Ajax-web2.0 pot soon (1-2 years?) so it might be interesting to keep an open eye on its progress…

We can also expect to see other widget engines to come up as well as there might be a dormant commercial market for it and current vendors provide solution targeting more personnal sites than commercial sites. Such a vendor would benefit from the technology awareness provided by Google and heat it up by real applications…

Office 2.0

October 15, 2006

Office 2.0 is starting, with Google and Zoho as leaders of Office 2.0 conference. Obvioulsy we are eager to know where this new episode of the web is going to and which tools and standards will be around in 2 years time.

Most companies need this type of software today as a large part of employees can be online at work, at home or on the road. It is too early to see where this is going as this type of software is still in infancy. But we can list a few criterias that will help deciphering this area:

  • integration of the the software suite: is the product well packaged?
  • complete? : have we got enough module types to cover main office applications
  • modularity: can we extract a software module (ex. spreadsheet) and use it in another environment (mashup).
  • extensibility: how easy is it to create a new module and add it to the software suite.
  • cost

Evaluating Zoho:

Currently we can see that Zoho does very well in terms of integration and is fairly complete. Cost is fair and most businesses can afford it.

However I haven’t seen any API for developing new modules. A company who needs the software and requires quite a few bespoke modules would probably have an issue with Zoho.

Also it is unlikely we will see any module used in a mashup.

Conclusion: this type of software is nice to use and looks professional. It can probably used by a lot of small businesses. However, it is unlikely the software will have a massive impact until an API is released for adding new modules.

Google “office”:

Google doesn’t really provide an office suite yet. But the word editor and spreadsheet applications can be helpful for sharing this type of documents (replacing word and excel). The integration level is then not very well advanced and it is likely it will remain so for a while (or Google would have to stop claiming it doesnt want to replace Microsoft office).

It is not complete either but Google brings new tools on a regular basis so it is possible we’ll see a suite of tools that will cover most office needs in a couple of years..

But where Google will create a real change on this front will be when it releases their API for using the tools in a mashup environment. It is likely we’ll then see their word and excel modules integrated in a lot of frameworks or collaborative tools. Just like we now have rich text editors in most of these environments, we’ll see word editors proposed as standards and spreadsheet data edited in blog tools…

Conclusion: Google will probably create a market move when it release its office API. Until then, it is just another nice tool of limited use.

Where is Office 2.0 going?

Office 2.0 has the potential to complement or replace traditional desktop applications if we have a software suite :

  • that provides enough applications out of the box,
  •  is well packaged and usable,
  • with an API for adding other modules.

An open source system would have a huge impact on the market but an open API would be enough if the price tag for the core of the software is affordable by small businesses.

It is likely we see Office 2.0 coming with a few leading application dendors that will share the market for generic applications, with a lot of smaller suites focusing on vertical markets.

A second step would then be to create a standard for application modules that could be integrated in suites supporting it, and this standard could use an ajax/mashup model. This type of standard would not require too much effort (ex. an html page with a simple API for loading JS and css resources) and could be defined very quickly (< 2 years).

Widget frameworks (Google desktop, Yahoo widgets) could also be integrated with Office 2.0, especially if they support an office 2.0 api. This would allow users to be notified when new documents are added or modified in their online office workspaces and/or have their main application modules directly integrated in the desktop, thus creating a mixed of online/desktop office suite. One adavnatge of this solution will be that modules will be available everywhere (web application) but also will be running on PC + Macs even in their desktop widget form (Google and Yahoo widget framework being available on both platforms).

About “Blogging”

May 19, 2006

Blogs are great way of sharing information but have we got the right tool?

(Is "time" the right navigation system through information?)

Blogging is one of the major event that happened in human hystory: people wherever they live are now able to express their thoughts to the rest of the world. Information democracy! That's great!

Now, the thing I find the most surprinsing is the fact we use tools that are not fit for the purpose! They are not fit because they are meant to be used by journalists, by people telling the world about daily events etc. It is organised by "time" and not by "subject" (ok we can categorise article, but that is atill a weak categorisation of information..).

What we really need is a way of publishing information in an organised way: by subject zones, with categories etc. Just like on a standard website. Because for the information we post, time is rarely the most important factor. Subject and categories are. And when time is important, it is merely because the article previosuly written are out of date when new stuff or thoughts arise..

INFORMATION = AUTHOR + SUBJECT + CATEGORY + CONTENT + RELATED STUFF + TIME

The order we want this to appear in news is:

SUBJECT + TIME + AUTHOR + CONTENT + related stuff

and this is where blogs are useful.

But the order we need when talking about business and technology is often:

AUTHOR + CATEGORY + SUBJECT + TIME+ CONTENT + RELATED STUFF

And we all know that the category dimension on the web translated to a good navigation and search systems. Navigation systems in blogs are really poor and mostly focused on timelines and that's whay they are not fit for the purpose of information sharing. So why are they so popular? The reason is that they are EASY to use and FREE, and their popularity is translated into search engine ranks. And until an alternative shows up with the same level of simplicity, we are stuck with these systems.. But having said that, they are great tools for publishing stuff. But we cant expect to get a final result that look like a well categorised set of information we can read like a book…

Are there alternatives? Well the world today is focusing on collaboration. Blogs are only the tip of the iceberg showing this strong need for collaboration. Collaboration in every aspect of our lives reach us through the web now… While I was writing this article, my 8 years old god daughter wanted to tell me that a little boy has given her a kick and she wanted to tell that to her god father. And She lives south of france, 1000 km form here in london. Isn't it a form collaboration…? Ok, that's a bit offtrck but the new world is showing up and we need the right types of showels to dig it, isnt't it?