Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Google Offline Gmail Arrives

Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

One of the best things about the offline functionality for Gmail that Google is rolling out is that it won't require users to download any new applications.

Built with Google's Gears developer language, it works within the browser, which users can of course open even if they find themselves without an Internet connection.

As Google's official blog explains:
Gmail uses Gears to download a local cache of your mail. As long as you're connected to the network, that cache is synchronized with Gmail's servers. When you lose your connection, Gmail automatically switches to offline mode, and uses the data stored on your computer's hard drive instead of the information sent across the network. You can read messages, star and label them, and do all of the things you're used to doing while reading your webmail online. Any messages you send while offline will be placed in your outbox and automatically sent the next time Gmail detects a connection.

Not only does this level the playing field for corporate Google App users who have been eyeballing customers of Zoho and Yahoo Zimbra jealously for months, it also helps SMBs and SoHos which use free Google products and have been limping along with an online-only client.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Govt. Regulations Good for This Business

Image representing Autonomy as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBaseAutonomy, a U.K.-based enterprise search firm that specializes in e-discovery, had a particularly good fourth quarter, according to the Financial Times.
Revenues for the year to December 31 rose 47 per cent to $503m (£366m), while pre-tax profit doubled to $185m. Basic earnings per share doubled to $0.61 and cash balances at the end of the year rose from $92.6m to $199m.

For all the railing about how Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulatory demands are a drain on corporate resources, it looks like they can be a boon if you're positioned to take advantage.

I'm joking (a little), because companies that aren't in the business of providing tech solutions to government hurdles do have to spend--but even there, I'd argue that more transparency is good for management and good for investors.

Back to Autonomy, things are going so well that it acquired Interwoven, a U.S.-based company with a strong position in the U.S. legal market.

The Obama administration is going to create even more opportunities for tech companies to provide services to other sectors of the economy, especially in the financial and health care sectors.

If you want your organization to get ahead, or if you want to get credit for showing it the way forward, think about what your organization can do to take advantage of this swing while the opportunity is still there.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

IBM Should Set Lotus Notes Free

IBMImage via WikipediaIBM has tried to revive Lotus through many incarnations (Dual Highway, Workplace, Sametime) and has by many accounts (including mine) improved the product markedly.

The issue isn't whether the product is good. The issue is whether it's relevant. First, how many people outside IBM even use Lotus? Market share is a real issue. If your business partners use Facebook, what's the point of using Quickr or Connections? It strikes me as rather solipsistic.

The other, related, problem, is that Facebook (and LinkedIn, to name two) are free, and freely chosen by its intended audience--oh yeah, the users.

That is the essential problem for IBM--it has no users to speak of -- for Lotus.

Mike Gotta puts it nice and starkly for IBM, even as he paints this year's Lotusphere as a chance to make Lotus relevant to the larger enterprise market:

Yes, individual products are improving and individual teams behind those products are more energized (namely the Lotus Sametime and Connections teams) - but having a few products improve is not going to deliver the type of tipping point IBM needs in the market.

Even adding features like a LinkedIn plug-in is irrelevant when users will pluck tools off the Web like fruit from a tree, rather than getting stale versions at the supermarket.

IBM can continue to try and put lipstick on its software pig, but it will still smell like a piece of adjunct functionality to a legacy enterprise application of yore.

IBM should do the right thing and use next year's Lotusphere as a platform for selling Notes to a company capable of making it exciting and, most of all, free. Free from its IBM legacy and free of cost as well.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama Health Care Plans Daunting, Inspiring

HealthCareThatWorksImage by The Opportunity Agenda via FlickrEveryone agrees (even right-wing doctors like my father-in-law) that the health care system is such a mess, it shouldn't even be called a system. It's more like a health-care dystopia.

People have to cart their hand-written health care records from one hospital to another, care-givers are sucked into a morass of complex and non-interoperable payment systems, and patients have little or no visibility into the chaos.

But every potential solution seems to have insurmountable obstacles to overcome.

It's refreshing to see that people like John Halamka, who is a practicing technologist in the health care field, is actually inspired rather than daunted by the challenge.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fusion Confusion Over?

Oracle VP Thomas Kurian tells InformationWeek that customers will soon be able to start testing Fusion.

Customers badly need Fusion in order to cobble together the patchwork of applications that Oracle has acquired over the years. Tellingly, Kurian also promises that "no customers will be pushed or forced to move to Fusion if they don't want to."

A software vendor that doesn't force its customers to do something--now that's a novelty! You wonder when Larry Ellison had the epiphany that customers actually have a say in these matters.

Kurian said Oracle has stayed consistent with its plan, and built applications -- including financial apps, human resources, supply change management, procurement, and human capital management -- that combine the best functionality from the many applications it now sells, including JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, and its own Oracle E-Business Suite.

The software will be offered in a full product suite sometime after the beta program is completed, but also can be adopted as individual apps. Kurian said Oracle hopes customers will adopt the full Fusion suite and gain application integration advantages in doing so, but that decision will be left to customers.

Despite all the goodness, though, "
a 2009 beta likely means it will be at least 2010 or 2011 before Fusion is available to all of its customers."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Obama Hires Business Analyst

I'm amazed we didn't have one already. Barack Obama is hiring Nancy Killefer, a McKinsey consultant, as the country's first "chief performance officer" to see if she can't help rub out inefficiency in government.

According to CNN Money:

As chief performance officer, a newly created position, Killefer will work to restore fiscal order by scrubbing the federal budget and reforming government.

I thought that's what the Office of Management and Budget was for. I guess the founding fathers actually expected Congress to do that for itself, but government has gotten much bigger than 538 bickering reps can handle.

I'm sure the announcement has the likes of SAS and Oracle licking their chops, but as with any kind of BI implementation, the real challenge is going to be finding which systems contain which data and figuring out a way of centralizing and creating meaningful reports from all that.

So good luck Ms. Killefer--with all the tax dollars we're going to be spending in the next few years, we really wish you the best.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Of Web 2.0, Netbooks and the End of Software

Here is how cloud computing is going to swamp traditional software into irrelevance:

First came Web 2.0, followed closely by Enterprise 2.0.

Members of Generation Y are entering the workforce in increasing numbers, bringing with them a 21st century version of the work ethic. They believe in working hard for long hours, but also in mingling work with pleasure. Pleasure as in browsing videos or chatting with friends.

So Gen Y brought Web 2.0 into the workforce, and smart managers adapted rather than fight them. The iPhone phenomenon is only one example of this amalgamation of forces: it's popular because it integrates pleasure and utility more gracefully than any other smart phone.

The App Store is driving even more Web-based application development than ever--and that's an incredible statement in itself. The nascent software-as-a-service industry has grown from plucky upstart to business-as-usual in less than two years, creating enormous opportunity for Web developers on a plethora of platforms, from Silverlight to Air, not to mention Chrome and iTunes.

There is no doubt that the ubiquity of Web-based applications is causing end users to wonder why they need to lug heavy and expensive laptops around when everything they need is in the cloud. If only those Treos and BlackBerrys were a little bigger and a little more powerful...

I've already mentioned why I don't think Apple is going to come out with a Netbook--it already has one in the iPhone.

But with the combination of Chrome and Android, Google has finally lifted the veil on its strategy to take the desktop productivity fight to Microsoft: by creating a sub-environment within the Internet that makes online applications not only as good, but in many cases, better and more enjoyable to use than conventional desktop software.

Ah yes, that word again: enjoyable. Just as with the iPhone, if enough people want to bring it into the office, IT will find a way to accommodate.