Friday, October 13, 2006

Another Incredible Glimpse into the Future

During the first day of the Office 2.0 Conference this week I remember thinking: this stuff is cool, but what makes a "web 2.0" application "web 2.0" for me is that it accumulates and aggregates and reshapes user data in a way that provides an experience that can't be had without that data. I think is a great example of this--when I search for a book, I can see what books customers actually bought after looking at the one that first caught my attention.

As I looked at the many different "Office 2.0" applications being demonstrated, it seems to me that just porting an application to the web has a good deal of value. For instance, I can do my accounting at home or at the office on a web-based accounting program without having to port files or log into another machine over the web. But to be really compelling, I wanted to see the application somehow do something significant that could only be done by being on the web.

Google had just announced their combining of Docs and Spreadsheets, and I wondered out loud what would have to happen for word processing to become "web 2.0." Now, to be fair, collaborative real-time word processing is already "web 2.0," but I wanted more. Something to really zing me. I said to Jason Galmeister: what you really need is a word processor that searches through web sites and blogs while you are writing and finds links to materials that match the content of what you are working on. This would allow you to discover other content that would enhance your ability to think about and or synthesize ideas, and to find others who have like interests or have written about similar topics.

Bruno Haid, pictured above, was the last speaker of the "Blitz Demonstrations" the next day. In a quiet, understated way, he demonstrated a program that they have developed that does just what I had described--and probably more. I quickly found him and asked about it, specifically indicating that I would like to see if it could be brought into the educational world. He said that right now the program is so processor intensive that it requires an $8,000 computer for just 100 users, but that they expect the price to come down as they continue to develop it.

I hope he hooks up with Google. They have the processing power, and they have the search tools. Put this together with Google Docs and you have met my criteria for "web 2.0." It would, I believe, be more than just another word processor--it would significantly change writing.
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