Google Apps and Roadshow

I was supposed to go to the what I think is a Google Apps roadshow this morning, but I was also supposed to be at code4lib this weeks and be doing a dozen other things that didn’t happen.

So, in lieu of that I’m reading up on the company’s first new business strategy since Adsense.

Phil Wainewright is skeptical, even mocking at the likely prospects for the premium package that Google is offering for about $50 per person, per year.

Microsoft Office killer it may not be, but then nobody really expected PCs to replace big iron (and they didn’t, but golly, look what did happen). The real frontier now isn’t in formatting single-author-print-it-and-file-it-(then forget it) documents, but in tools that support collaboration throughout the life of the document. Technology has fast outstripped our ability to integrate its affordances into our work, but we might be ready for something new. I’m not predicting a paperless office, but we might be looking at the evolution of office technology and communication, moving beyond the notion computers as elaborate typewriters (which happen to be networked), to applications that truly leverage the network as a business tool.

Google Docs’ collaboration features are emblematic of that change, allowing anybody with a web browser to participate in real time in the writing of a document.

For example, when Alice in New York enters something into her project, Meredith in Los Angeles can see the changes in real time, and respond to them immediately. Both work from a single document or spreadsheet, instead of having to laboriously compare and consolidate individual documents or spreadsheets, and editing is possible from any computer with internet access — whether in an airport or at a friend’s house.