Google As a Social Commentary


Image via Wikipedia

I'm not sure if this is the post that you were looking to find on this blog but stay with it for a few minutes because I think it's going to turn out fine.

For many of us, "Googling" has become the new standard for information searching.  I know for my own self, Google has become the center of my world.  After UCD blocked our access to outside mail servers (they were afraid of scary viruses...) I had to find other email solutions outside of Boston University infrastructure.  Naturally, I turned to the one parent figure in my digital life - Google.  Gmail, GCalendar, and GTalk are now the focal points of my information gathering.  I have embraced the Goog and it feels good.  I know that I am an early adopter of sorts but I can't be the only one doing this.  Google is now inseperable from our society and we from it.

Yesterday, Thursday the 5th of June, Google announced a new feature to their ever popular GMail service - GMail Labs.  This beta service, along with many other Google Labs program, is a way for you to access non-mainstream features in order to make your life easier.  Features such as changing the way your signature is displayed, adding the old Snake game, or even locking yourself out of GMail for 15 minute email time-outs are all part of the offering.

So, that's all well and good, James.  We know you are a geek and love this stuff but what about the social commentary part of all this?  Here it comes.

Google doesn't do things lightly - they move relatively slowly, though much faster than other corporations of its size.  The launch of a new service is a definite sign that there had been interest in such a feature as well as someone that was interested in developing the tool - perhaps part of their progressive 15% time allocation for employees to pursue their own projects.  To me, this is a sign of a new wave of human.  In my mind, this is the same sort of movement that is propelling Barack Obama through to the Democratic party's nomination - we want change and now there is a voice, a drive to get it.

Let me expand.  As part of this new feature, private users will be able to code their own features for GMail and have them integrated with the service.  Sure, you can do similar things using extensions and personal scripts such as Greasemonkey and Better Gmail 2 for Firefox.  Those services are great but they aren't native, each user has to go out and get it for themselves.  GMail Labs will be for the masses and supports all those that are out using Google products.

Some are bashing Generation Y as the generation that will ruin the world with our preoccupation with social networks and social media.  I happen to believe that we will be the agents of change that our parents could never dream to be.  We have a drive, a carnal need to change things.  We are driven to make an impact on the world around us.  Generation Y will be a seen as the network of individuals that come together to make change in this world.

The launch of GMail Labs is a perfect example of this.  When a company like Google makes a move, it's for a good reason.  Their strategy reflects society and our passions, our desires.  I would look to Google to become the next Microsoft... but in a rather friendly, positive partnership rather than the hostile prisoner relationship we have with Redmond.



Microsoft Selling Away Office 2007 Ultimate for $60 - 90% Off

ATTENTION STUDENTS I wanted to send a note off quickly to let everyone know that Microsoft is selling Office 2007 Ultimate, their flagship productivity suite for $60.  That's about 90% off the retail cost - all you need is a .edu email account.

LINK: [this is a non-affiliate link]

Get everything you need: Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, Access, Infopath, Publisher, Groove, and OneNote.  It's a great opportunity if you haven't picked up a productivity suite lately.

I went to other places over spring break

Sooo I've not been good about keeping this up to date over the last while so allow me to tidy this one up. After leaving Amsterdam, Grace and I flew into Barcelona and made the most of that city.  It was so cool to be able to use a bit of my limited Spanish.  We toured the city looking at the normal touristy sites but also did a tour of Gaudi architecture.  This tour culminated in a walk within the walls of La Sagrada Familia.  Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!  Go to the spring break collection on my flickr site - for more looks at this place.

After leaving Barcelona, we met up with Grace and my friend, Sarah, and rented a car (with GPS) to drive south.  Our first day on the road we made it into Alicante amid explosive festivities - literally.  People were dropping firecrackers all over the place in celebration of the Las Fallas festival.  Basically, the neighborhoods of Alicante build these large statues and scenes out of very flammable materials.  They party and celebrate all through Holy Week and then they burn them on the last day of the festival - we were there for that night.  We met up with friends of friends in the city and they showed us around a bit until we retired to our car and slept in a parking lot, in the car, for the night.  That was enough for us because the next day we found a place to sleep in beds.

< ![endif]-->The next day we walked around the parks and museums of Alicante before pushing on to the beach and then off to Valencia.  We saw the sites as best we could whilst there and enjoyed a relaxing night.  The next day we took in the beach and scenic vistas and even toured an old Moorish fort atop the highest point of the city.  It was absolutely gorgeous to look out over the entire city as well as the beach.  It was definitely the nicest weather we had had all week.  With heavy hearts we headed further south to Granada.

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Granada was where Grace had been studying for the semester so she owned the town.  We stayed with a friend of hers in a very nice hotel.  Absolutely a gas.  We went out that night and sampled the local haunts, namely the tapas bars.  Granada is the only place around that will give you food with every beer you order - it was tasty too.  The night wore on meeting up with friends and new people until eventually we made our way back to the hotel.  The next day, we played it cool touring the city a bit and getting a beautiful glimpse of the Sierra that looms high above the city center much in the way that you'd imagine the Alps would in Switzerland.

With heavy heart, I departed Granada the next morning en route back to Dublin.  I thought that I might MIGHT be able to get onto an earlier flight into Heathrow so that I could get a flight back to Dublin before the night was out... unfortunately that definitely didn't happen.  On the other hand, I rolled into Malaga not knowing where the heck I was going from an hour and a half bus ride from Granada.  Being the inventive guy that I am, I went to the rail station nearby to the bus terminal and was able to navigate my way on the light rail system out to the airport.  This too was in vain as I found the British Airways office closed for a 4 hours making my attempt for moving up my flight a 6.5 hour wait in Malaga Airport.  I read my books, did some work, listened to podcasts, watched some shows I had on my iPod while waiting, trying to be productive.

Finally, the time came when the desks opened and we could get through security.  I ended up meeting a graduate student from George Washington University in line who had been out traveling and learning more about the culture.  He was an international marketing strategy guy - very interesting to talk to.  We chatted and met up after security and have kept in touch since.  That night was a horrific overnight in quite possibly the worst terminal ever.  It started with a sleepless night in an ice cold terminal wing - the Brits didn't want us near the shops so they herded us into one wing that was sooo very cold.  It was awful but I ended up meeting a nice old man that told me his life story around 3am.  I has some calls from friends and family around the 4am time that were interesting (oh how I love time changes).  At about half four, the Biometric office opened and we all had to register with them - they took 4 finger palm prints and a head photo.  This was apparently a recent security measure to control international travelers when in common concourses.

Anyways, the story ends with me getting a hassle at every checkpoint for one reason or another, not getting any breakfast, and then finally got on the flight.  Upon arrival in Dublin, they told me they had lost my bag but didn't know where it was... I wasn't really batting 500 that day.  I headed home, and took care of some of the work that had piled up and then got myself into bed for a long deserved nap.  I woke up in the afternoon to word that I had gotten the Accenture internship which was amazing and then woken up again a few hours later to news that they had found my bag.  All in all, it was a great end to a horrible 48 hours.  It was a great trip and a nice way to spend my spring break.

My Article (Original Version) for the UCD Observer: "Microhoo"

This piece was originally written for the University College Dublin Observer student newspaper, a bi-weekly paper written by students for students.  This version is the one that I wrote and is not the version published (they edited slightly). Last week, Microsoft announced its plans to buy out Yahoo with a 44.6 billion dollar cash and stock buyout offer.  This represents a 61% premium over Yahoo's stock price at the time of the offer.  That premium would net Microsoft some very attractive properties including Yahoo's popular photo service, Flickr.  This seemingly random announcement comes 6 months after merger talks failed last summer but soon after both Google and Yahoo! announced improvements to their online application.  Possible explanations for the timing point to the obvious, the 800-pound gorilla in room known as Google.  However, verbiage in Microsoft's letter to Yahoo! made the move sound as though Redmond had lost patience in waiting for Yahoo to submit to their monopolistic ways.

So far, Yahoo has been able to stay independent without needing a dominant company like Microsoft to hold their hand.  But let us be honest, this takeover is all about the money - online advertising money to be precise.  Steven Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, outlined "search and online advertising... new innovations in the areas of video, mobile services, online commerce, and social media" to be the crown jewels of the deal in his letter to Yahoo executives last week.  Indeed, Yahoo has the highest readership among websites with upwards of 500 million hits per month, an online search and advertising business second only to Google as well as number of other online communities.  Now just add the fact that you have knocked off the only competition between you and Google and you are looking at the same incentives the Microsoft execs are no doubt salivating over.

There does not seem to be much of an upside for Yahoo, unless of course you forget the 61% premium Microsoft planning to pay for Yahoo's stock.  Ballmer made sure to threaten the Yahoo management team with investor power by adding rhetoric about "reserving the right to ensure investors understand the opportunity [they] are offering.  Indeed, some analysts are predicting that if Yahoo execs do reject Microsoft's offer, large investors may apply strong pressure since they face substantial returns on their investment.  So the question stands, does Yahoo have a choice?  Well, yes - sort of.  Google has expressed objections to anti-competitive nature of the potential merger and offered to "help" Yahoo! fend off the buyout in the same breath.  Other options include finding another buyer or going private by partnering with a private equity firm.

One other option would be to outsource search and advertising to Google as they have in the past, thereby making themselves almost toxic to Microsoft.  Redmond would inevitably baulk at investing in a venture that would benefit that "significant competitor" that Ballmer talks about in his internal communications and the buyout offer itself.

At a glance, this offer seems to have come out of nowhere but in Microsoft's defense, Yahoo is a very attractive purchase.  The combined entity would become a strong rival to Google's search and ad platforms while standing to shape the face of social networking.  Some industry analysts posit that the merger would create more competition despite the Google's please of foul.  Others cheer the move amidst concerns that Yahoo does not have direction or a clear idea what their business really is.  Over the years they have dabbled in social networking, messaging, email, finance, content and news creation, and now are writing software for enterprise electronic communication solutions.  A Microhoo would probably have a clearer mission for each of the respective brands while leveraging the significant engineering talent of each company.

As of press time, Yahoo! is still sitting on the takeover offer reviewing their options to find the decision that is "best for Yahoo! and our shareholders" as  Jerry Yang, CEO and co-founder writes in an internal email.  Unfortunately for Microsoft, the longer Yahoo stalls, the farther their stock prices fall.   In contrast, Yahoo's stock price has risen enough that Redmond might be forced to make a new bid.  Only time will tell but in the interim, grab some popcorn, a Guinness, and wait with bated breath.  Hopefully we will get an outcome in the next week or so.

What Does it Take to Do Helpdesk?

This week marks the beginning of school for freshmen all around the country and it also signals the graying of hairs for helpdesk operators on campuses all over.  So, while sitting here on the phones helping frantic parents and ditsy students, I was pondering what it takes to do this job... and well.

First, I think Patience is probably the most important.  Students or corporate users are already stressed out that their computers aren't working properly and losing your patience with them will only result in badness.  Today, already, I've had four different parents basically yell at me that their computers bought from "YOU" (also known as the University's Computer store) and basically said it was my fault that it wasn't working correct.  After getting the user to actually plug the correct cord into the correct port, they felt really stupid.  This brings me to the next item.

Allow the users to Save Face.  Just because running a bash script to disable and enable the Network Interface Card (NIC) is like peeling a banana for you, definitely doesn't mean it is for them.  In fact, if it were that easy for them, then they wouldn't be talking to you in the first place.  By letting the client "win" they will feel better about technology and might actually learn how to fix the problem in the future.  This is a good thing since they'll be happy and might not need to call you back next time.

Without a doubt Technical Knowledge, is pivotal to running a successful help desk operation.  This is the bread and butter of all Information Technology Support, the skills and tools of the trade. You use this knowledge to determine the users problems and find possible solutions to their problems.  Also, when working with difficult users, your knowledge is your leverage in controlling the consulting experience.

Squishy Toys are to de-stress after those users that really drive you nuts.  Kongs for large dogs, beanie babies, or any other squeezable and slightly humanoid item can help you feel better when you're rather stressed out.

If you've got these tools you may very well be a good candidate for helpdesk operations.  However, if you don't really like dealing with people, can't communicate with "mortals" or otherwise have a bad attitude towards others, stop here and do not pass GO.

Adding Another Hat

Some of you may know that I recently accepted a new position as the Network and Web Administrator for Generations Incorporated.  If you've read this blog for long, you know also that I'm currently working desktop support for Boston University.  It's about 10:30 here in Boston and I was thinking about the transition in skills and knowledge of a job such as this.  Desktop support with Information Systems Planning and Support has been a really great experience where I've learned a great deal from the technical aspects to time management and relationship maintenance.  These are all skills that I'm able to apply to this new organization I'm working with. Unfortunately, as a student employee and the nature of the desktop support position, I have not learned much in the way of server technology.  Sure, this means that Generations Inc (GI) took a bit of a gamble with me since their prior admin was basically a brain-child genius.  On the other hand, having worked in an environment where you don't always see the whole picture or deal with users that honestly don't know what happened, I have learned the ability to troubleshoot problems.  Perhaps this, the ability to systematically find problems and resolve them in an orderly fashion, has been the greatest benefit I've gained from my work with ISPS.

Troubleshooting skills aside, I face a large learning curve when it comes to specific technology such as Windows 2003 Server, Windows Small Business Server, Terminal Services Server, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.  These particular OS's are my bread and butter - the daily grind if you will.  My primary tasks on a day to day basis are communicated via the task application of outlook and revolve around server maintenance and backup, desktop user support (similar to my position with ISPS), and longer term research and development projects.

I think I'll mention a couple of the projects I'm working on right now.  The first, a full inventory and audit of computer assets, users, policies, and infrastructure.  This is a rather basic concept - figure out what we have, where it is, and who uses it, then make changes as necessary.  Since we're such a small shop, it won't be difficult to get any one bit of information but to do the updates and remediation that I think will be necessary, I expect that I'll need some out of hours time.  The other big project I'm working on is to align mobile computing to our network where users with Blackberries will be able to sync with our servers or perhaps Windows Mobile devices will use the AirSync technology.  I'm still in the research phase for this project, gathering the raw numbers and information to then present to the directors in a report.

So what spurned all of this?  Well, I was bored for one.  I'm in the midst of a book that teaches the Windows 2003 Server information in a crash course sort of way.  I've been reading about installing, domain controllers, all sorts of bits about network infrastructure that I just needed a bit of a break and here I am.  In any case, I will bring this to a close.  I know I haven't been writing often but I think that my more regimented schedule will do well for my publishing cycle.

Thank you to all that continue to read and support City Streets, my professional blog and website!

Social Networking Right in Your Browser - FLOCK

We all know that there are a number of browsers on the internet these days. Today, I want to take some time to discuss FLOCK, a socially oriented browser built on the Firefox platform. This unique browsing program combines a host of features from Blogging to media streams right into your browser, thus eliminating the need to browse to blogging interfaces or load special plug-ins. Though their market share isn't even on the level of the big three, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari, FLOCK carves out a niche for socially minded, tech savvy users. Perhaps we will see more and more users from my generation using this tool as social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace become more and more popular. I think FLOCK is worth everyone's time because of the accessibility, standardization, and tools that this wonderful browser has to offer. Dominating the browser scene is the standard, meat and potatoes, Microsoft Internet Explorer. Despite a recent update, IE still fails to follow some basic web standards and is known to be vulnerable to many mal-ware exploits. Mozilla Firefox is the open source alternative giving IE its toughest competition. This browser combines an easily extensible platform with standards compliant engine and a healthy dose of non-conformism that has many younger users leaving Microsoft behind. Apple's Safari browser should be familiar to every Mac user since it comes bundled with every Apple system much the same way IE takes over Windows. Steve Jobs boasts about Safari's fast load times and full compatibility as two of the browser's strongest point. Apple has even launched a Windows Beta aiming at promoting market share and providing development tools for Windows programmers to use on the newly released Apple iPhone. Unfortunately, none of these browsers can combine all of the bits and pieces of social media that I was looking for straight out of the box. Then came a mention of FLOCK on the CNET Buzz Out Loud podcast that brought this new browser to my door.

As I said earlier, FLOCK is built for those who have a large web presence, especially if that has to do with social networking and blogging. Being a 20 something and interested in technology, this was a natural step for me - perhaps just an extension of my long hours spent crawling through Facebook. In a nut shell, FLOCK brings all of the best things that I love about Firefox, ScribeFire, Sage, and live bookmarks into a single integrated interface. I'm going to focus on the two features I find to be the most convenient: blogging toolset and the Feed Sidebar.

The blogging tool set will automatically discover most internet based blogging interfaces such as Blogger,, Livejournal, and more. Asking permission first, FLOCK can import your settings from these blogs and then offer you the ability to write a post straight from a button on the tab-bar. For me, it's always been cumbersome to have to navigate to the back end of my wordpress blog and then post so this was a great time saving feature.

By entering the interface (a quill icon), the user gets a new window with full HTML support in which to craft their post. At this point, the user hasn't needed to decide where it's going. Upon finishing their work, the blogger gets a confirmation screen and chooses where to post their blog. I have to admit, sometimes when I start writing a blog post, I can get carried away and end up with a rant rather than something tat is designed for public consumption. Having the option of where to post the article allows me to easily tunnel to my rant blog and come back another time to write the intended article when I'm relaxed. All in all, it just works. The interface is easy and intuitive, such that I've recommended it to many of my non-technical friends.

The second feature I wanted to mention was the use of a sidebar feed aggregator. Those familiar with Sage in the Firefox browser will appreciate the simplicity of this nifty tool. Whenever you browse to a website that has an active RSS or ATOM feed attached to it, FLOCK will post a toolbar and ask if you want to subscribe to it. Assuming you choose to subscribe, you can then browse through all the available articles from the feed via a sidebar interface. The sidebar will show the number of new articles in the feed and, when clicked, opens a tab that shows you the feed in a Sage-esque sort of interface. The reader can choose the display to work with two or three columns, and decides whether to see headlines, excerpts, or the entire article. By default, FLOCK will mark the news items read as you scroll past them allowing you to scan the headlines for something of interest while leaving not requiring the user to check or click anything to proven that they've moved on from that given nugget of information.

The innovation just continues from here. Media feeds, visual bookmarks, and a trendy "in" feel brings FLOCK to the top of my list of browsers now. It's as easy as Firefox but more useful for those spending lots of time on the social web. I appreciate all of you readers and especially Todd Cochrane's mention on his Podcasting website, I listen to his witty conversation many times a week, so go on over and check him out. Stay glued to this feed for more web centric posts and all of your technology analysis!

Microsoft Office LIVE Focus Group

PremiseToday was the first time that Redmond has reached out to put money into my pocket. About a week ago, I received a phone call asking me to work with a market research firm to speak about their product - Microsoft Office Live. The whole program is software as a service - in other words, you pay for programs as if they were a subscription with varying levels of functionality and support for different price points. I think the whole concept is ok in form but Microsoft's implementation has been horrific at best - they seem to get that, hence the focus groups targeting users that signed up but then almost never went back.

Body Upon arrival at a rather interesting office building, I was asked once again to screen and answer questions that pertained to the study. It's ok... I guess, but it was the third time that I was screened (the first at the initial interview request and the second upon the confirmation of the appointment). I understand the need to be thorough but I think it's a bit much to answer the same questions three times over. The desk attendants showed me to a waiting area with some warm sandwiches and soda. As more people arrived, it became clear that they weren't going to take everyone and lo and behold they took only three of the crowd that had assembled.

I didn't hear what became of the others because I was called into the room for the focus group. There was the stereotypical mirrored glass behind which researchers were scrutinizing our every move and phrase. This is normal to me now since I have completed a number of different focus groups around the Boston area. The warmup questions were similar and always landed just short of what we were there to discuss. I think that it was an interesting contrast between we three chosen ones - one artist lady that didn't know anything about computers that AOL didn't tell her - one would be start-up guy that thought he knew everything about computers but had a financial advisor's background - and then me, the college kid that works in IT working towards a degree in MIS. It was clear that I had the most technical knowledge of the bunch. I'm not making that distinction because I'm "better" so to speak but rather because they drew a good diverse background - a fair cross section of the possible future users.

An hour later we had decided that the program wasn't useful because it was too hard to navigate and wasn't giving the user what it needed when it needed it. In other words it wasn't user friendly or intuitive. As a group we had given the researchers some targeted feedback that I think was worth our $130 honoraria... If I do say so myself. It will be interesting to watch over the next few months to see if anything from our small panel actually makes it to the end product at Microsoft.

With that, I bid you adue - I'm hoping that these will come more often now that final exams are over for me. I definitely appreciate your readership and hope that you stay tuned!

Ubuntu 7.04 Fiesty Fawn - My New Best Friend

IntroIt wasn't too long ago that Ubuntu launched their new open source linux release, Ubuntu 7.04 Fiesty Fawn. Later that day, the Ubuntu servers crashed under the unprecedented load from enthusiasts attempting to pull the new release. But what is Linux and what does it mean to be open source?

Definitions Linux is an operating system (OS) similar in function to Macintosh OS X Tiger and Microsoft Windows Vista. These programs run your computer and allow the user to interact with the machine and complete operations. Wikipedia defines Linux as: Linux (IPA pronunciation: /ˈlɪnʊks/) is a Unix-like computer operating system family. Linux is one of the most prominent examples of free software and of open source development; its underlying source code is available for anyone to use, modify, and redistribute freely. The kernel - or core - runs like Unix and has a similar reputation for stability. But Unix is text only so the latest version of Linux provide user interfaces that resemble those that Mac or PC users operate. In some cases, Linux interfaces are easier to use and customize than their corporate counterparts.

I've been saying a lot about open source on this blog, but what is it really? It sounds highly technical and scary - let's try to clean it up a bit. Open source products are a different way of developing, designing, and ultimately releasing a software product. All programs run on a source code that is the backbone or spine of the application - it holds it all together and like our spinal cord, communicates or coordinates the many processes of a software program. Traditionally, corporate software designers like Microsoft opt to hold the source private so that others cannot duplicate or change the programs they distribute. This ensures market security but stagnates 3rd party development and kills customization.

Open source projects do just that, they "open" the source code and distribute it along with the program they've developed. Now 3rd party programmers and customers can view and alter the underlying code that runs their programs in order to customize their programs. A number of different software licenses are used by developers to control their products but this is beyond the scope of this article. Open source is gaining popularity throughout the world because it pulls on the expertise by many in a community feel to maintain and develop projects. You probably know a few open source projects. RedHat Linux, Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird, Wordpress, and many more. All of these projects have huge user bases and programming community support that keeps them fresh - Ubuntu is no different.

Ubuntu So let me talk about the crux of this entire post -> UBUNTU 7.04 Fiery Fawn! I just have to say that this Linux release is amazing. I haven't had much experience with Linux yet just because all of my work has been on Windows PC's and Apple Mac's so far - I wanted to try it out. I'm really happy that I chose to launch into Linux with Ubuntu. The UI is flawless and easy to use - maybe even familiar. It features easy access to the terminal as well as customization and system control panels. But I think the best part is that it's FUN! I can't think of too many OS's that I would call fun.

Right from the get go, I knew that this was a different kind of OS. Ubuntu is distributed in ISO disk image formats that you must either virtually mount to a drive or burn to a CD. These CD's are what is known as LIVE-CD's because they will boot and run the operating system from the CD-ROM drive without changing anything about your computer. I could try out the UI and use all of the features of the program before deciding to install. When I did decide it was time, Ubuntu did the installation right from the LIVE-CD interface rather than the nasty text interface that you have to install windows from. It was so easy.

15 Minutes later I was using Ubuntu on a crappy old Dell laptop. I didn't need to find drivers, programs or anything - it was all there. As the computer booted into it's new operating system, I was greeted by fresh graphics and fun sound effects. I wanted to play and play I did. I spent an hour just going through everything in the OS and trying to learn more and more. As of today I've even installed Flash into Linux and used it a number of times. So... what's that's about all I can muster right now, but I'll be getting back to this and posting an update in the next week. I'm really excited to use this even more.

Conclusion Ubuntu is a dynamic and refreshing departure from the standard graphical interface such as Windows and Mac. I was excited to play with it and learn and try out this new product. I know that I can take it for a ride any time I want or program modules and customize my own version. I could even sell it if I wanted. I suggest that everyone should take a few minutes and try it out - it's so easy. There's also a Server release that features customizations and 1 touch LAMP (Linux, Apache, MYsql, and PHP4) installation - something that every webserver needs.

This operating system is a huge step in the right direction for open source projects and I feel that if someone wants to step into the Linux/open source realm, this is a great first OS to play with.

Booo Monopoly Microsoft, Hurray Google!

Today Google announced that they would be launching capabilities to support presentations within the Google Documents & Spreadsheets service. This marks a major inroad into the world of document management and word processing. A ZDnet blog brings more details to the announcement. But what does this mean? For one, Office might not be the top dog for too much longer, in the personal computing field at least. Currently, Microsoft owns 95% of the office productivity market, most of which is dominated by the business market. Corporations are usually much slower to adopt new technologies because of their need to test, harden, and secure most applications. The other reason MS has such a large market is that it's products work well together - windows with office, office with exchange, exchange with Windows Mobile etc. Companies are going to need to branch out and take some risks if they are ever going to get out of the MS strangle hold.

There are many companies starting to test out these new technologies. Many cities and towns are starting to require that documents archive into an open source format. Massachusetts legislatures were among the first to convert to the open source formats - Hamburg, Germany is close to follow. Why are they moving? Well, open source products are earning more and more respect among the consumer and business groups. Google Apps provides an online office suite available free of charge to individuals and schools as well as a more robust premium version for enterprise. Open Office is another open source office suite - desktop based - that utilizes the now common and highly secure Open XML formats. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of Microsoft?

True, Redmond has tried to embrace the XML wave by releasing their Office Open XML format. BUT - this isn't inter operable with other open source document programs. I, for one, feel that there needs to be more testing and proving built into the current open source productivity suites so that corporations will find more confidence in these solutions. By bringing more money and time into these technologies, the very solutions we're working to improve will develop incredibly fast.

No matter what productivity platform you choose to use, I suggest everyone look into the open source solutions because they are making up more and more ground on currently available private software (Read as MS Office Suite). Check it out - GO OPEN!!