Friday, January 30, 2009

Google Follows Xythos and Zimbra Offline

I know, it sounds sort of odd doesn’t it? However, headlines about Google going offline were all over the tech news sites this week. I think it’s interesting that the world’s largest provider of web services recognizes that a key barrier to increased service adoption is customer concern about online service availability. After all, isn’t the web supposed to be there for us 24x7x365?

Obviously, there’s more to it than that. Having anytime access to your data is certainly important, but knowing that you have control of it is even more critical. I suspect that is one of the reasons more businesses have not adopted Google Docs of Gmail. The fact that these services are still labeled “Beta” probably doesn’t help either.

There will probably always be times that we cannot be connected to the web. Whether that’s in an airplane or simply some WiFi dead zone at a hotel, “no service available” is a message that’s still all too common. Google Gears is a good first step towards addressing these issues, but I’m not sure it means now is the time to discard our desktop applications altogether.

Perhaps there will soon be a time when web apps replicate on my desktop regardless of their connection status and that will be good enough. Today however, I find myself continuing to return to my desktop for programs that can respond acceptably and generally offer me a greater degree of control over how I manage my data. To be fair, I think this is also a function of the maturity of my desktop apps vs. newer web-based alternatives.

However, as my job leads me deeper into the world of rich media the demand for improved application performance multiplies rapidly. I’m already enjoying many of the new features in iLife ’09, but I recognize that even though they leverage web data more, there’s little chance they could perform satisfactorily as web services alone. So, while I applaud Google for addressing the offline challenge, I consider it to be a fast moving target they may not catch up with.

Larger and more complex data files demand faster microprocessors and more sophisticated software. As a result, I benefit from using the latest desktop software from Adobe and Apple while considering my sixteen-month-old Macbook to be somewhat obsolete. This became abundantly clear as I struggled to publish twenty minutes of HD video for our web sites this week.

I need a seamless online and offline connection from my desktop to web servers in order to publish and preserve my output. This is where Internet “bridge” technologies, like Xythos Drive make sense. Xythos Drive synchs my data locally for offline work and lets me perform those tasks with the applications of my choice, whether from Adobe, Microsoft or whoever. That’s the best of both worlds for me when we’re talking about rich media.

When we’re talking about more lightweight collaboration (Email, messaging, etc.) Google is definitely getting better at addressing my needs. However, I like Zimbra Collaboration Suite a lot too and they’ve offered an offline solution for quite a while already. Zimbra has also partnered with Xythos to integrate enterprise content management (ECM) into their popular Outlook alternative. I think that make plenty of sense, particularly if you’re collaborating around rich media!

Gmail continues to improve and I certainly feel like a beneficiary of that. Google could also benefit from considering how users would like to better integrate their desktop lives online and what better solutions their web services can offer in that regard. As a fan of Blogger, I have high hopes.

How are you bridging the divide between what you do on your desktop vs. the web? Please let me know.

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