Web based services

Tushar Mehta brings up some interesting aspects on web based services in the Goggle spreadsheet post. Below is his post on the subject:

Over the past 3 years or so, every chance I’ve had I’ve asked people in MS to create a “web based Office-like product” that blurs the lines between existing apps. Instead it would consist of functional components, each of which could be used independent of the others or in conjunction — imagine if you will a OneNote “writing pad” where the “things” you put in wherever you want would be components from today’s overall Office suite — XL, Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, FrontPage, what-have-you.

Of course, since I never had a chance to talk with senior MS managers, it was obvious I was “whistling in the wind.”

When OfficeLive came along I briefly fantasized that someone in MS management had been thinking along the same lines as me. Unfortunately, OfficeLive seems to be another attempt to push SharePoint Services based products.

Now, maybe Google will deliver. I don’t want Writely and Google Desktop and GSheet and GMail and G Calendar and Google’s video site and…and…and… What I want is something way “outside the box.” Imagine a clean slate site where the stuff I can include are functional components: an InMail section here, an IM section there, a hidden reminders “window” that will “pop up” when needed, a ticker to keep an eye on the stock market (and maybe a “quick access to my brokerage to execute a trade” feature), a tiny space to watch streaming news channel (or even a regular TV channel), a space where I can work on a document — a document that contains text organized as I want, numbers in some tabular fashion in that area, a charting module that lets me create the kinds of charts I want (in one discussion with MS, I referred to it as “a police sketch artist for charts”), overall quality that approaches what one sees in magazines…the possibilities are endless…and, of course, all in an collaborative environment.

No, it won’t be free. And, no, I don’t have to buy everything all at once. If I don’t do magazine quality charts, I don’t buy that license. If I don’t do active stock trading, I don’t need the “rapid-access-to-broker” module.

But, what a world it would be!

I would welcome a workable business model that gives us the freedom to subscribe on online web services on demand and for which we pay for when used. Of course, it should include storage options that we can accept and trust in.

When I first heard about Office Live I also thought it would be something like web based Office System but a quick look made me disappointed as it was not even close to it.

MSFT is, as usual nowadays, ‘late to supper’. Their major concern is to please the present and future shareholders and increase the ROI on present platforms. Their upcoming focus will be on DSS, i e Decision Support Systems (the buzzword today is Business Intelligence, BI) . Later this year we will see their contribution to BI, Performancepoint Server (Analysis Service, Balance Scorecard, and a new tool called Biz #).

Google seems to put all their project to some endless beta-status, which may reflect the issue Google seems to have when it comes to find business model(s).

Perhaps a small and new company can push the well established vendors in the right direction with some powerful solution(s)? After all, competition gives us the best situation in the long run.

Another note is that the general opinion seems to be that everything on the Internet should be free. Perhaps it should be true for home users but certainly not for business users!

BTW, when You say ‘Out of the box’ the reply should be ‘What box?’ (OK, I picked that up from Bullen’s et al book) ;)

Kind regards,
Dennis

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16 thoughts on “Web based services

  1. Tushar,

    This is a great idea, you should have kept it to yourself and released this on your own.

  2. “Web based” is cool. Usually it means that in runs in a browser so that the end user doesn’t have to install anything, therefore the IT department and their bosses love it, thinking it’s safe and standard and cheap and easy. Modern developer tools are also full of browser components, so anyone can throw together a safe standard cheap “web interface” to whatever they are doing.

    So it’s a surprise to me that there isn’t a single useful web based computer program anywhere, compared to countless great applications available for installation onto your computer. Can’t blame Microsoft for not being great in this area. No one is great in this area, no one is anything in this area, there is no area.

    I am missng somthing of course. Which web based tools are you people using and loving ? Google search and blogging software doesn’t count.

    Best wishes Harald

  3. Harald,

    I love my wife and daughters but will *never* love any tools ;)

    Check out the following URL (it’s in Norwegian):
    http://www.prosjektplassen.no/

    I also use SharePoint Server 2003 with SQL Server 2005 and voilá I got a web based system!

    The present business model that are applied by MSFT as well as other require me to

    – invest in a server
    – pay a fix license fees for all the softwares in use
    – pay a fix monthly fee for the administration and maintance by my ISP

    no matter if I use it 100 % or 0 %, i e it’s not demand driven.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  4. Hi Harald,

    “Web based” means nothing to install. One way to think of it is that it gives the central IT people more control. But, it can often be the other way around!

    That can be a boon to “end customers” since now they *don’t* have to get their IT department involved. When I was developing the first of what I hope to be several real-time interactive and competitive business simulations, the #1 recommendation (demand?) from the people I consulted with was “give me something I can use w/o getting my IT people involved.” The result was a pure web-based system with no — absolutely no — software on the client computer. All the simulations need is a web browser with JavaScript enabled. The bonus to me turned out to be the customers don’t even have to use a laptop. A Palm-based or a Windows Mobile based PDA can also be used to play the simulation!

    This is very similar to the software from Google. You don’t need to install anything on your computer to use its various products. I became convinced of the feasibility of web-based systems when I first used Google maps at maps.google.com (not Google Earth that one must download and install). [As an aside, I am also sold on AJAX, a technology collection that includes a key component – xmlhttprequest — initially introduced by MS!] Essentially, have browser (with JS enabled) use Google (products). Period.

    Have you used Google calendar at http://www.google.com/calendar? It’s slick. More complex systems (like document processors and spreadsheets) are in their infancy but IMO we are finally at the point where the computing power, communication power, and required technologies are finally powerful enough to make web-based “applications” feasible.

    On a personal note, I build my first demo of a AJAX based system recently. Very primitive as in just a few steps beyond the mandatory “Hellow world.” But, based on it, I recommended to one of my clients that they replace their XL-based system with one based on AJAX technologies. In my case, the entire system was built using MS products since they are what I am most familiar with. However, for the most part AJAX is largely vendor neutral.

    One of the things I had been toying with was building a speadsheet with AJAX. Of course, I knew I did not have the necessary resources to do so but conceptually it is not very difficult.

  5. You’re welcome :)

    Hm, while reading Your comments I started to think that I’ve made the wrong assumption:

    That people in general know What actually make a system or tool to be web based.

    OK, to contribute with additional input on the subject. I work with some Swedish corporates where I develop so called pilots that are rolled out within the corporates for evaluation. These pilots are developed with XL due to a) XL is an inexpensive platform and b) by developing in XL short development cycles are achieved.

    Depending on the outcome of the evaluation processes the next step is to implement these solutions in their core web based intranet systems. I’m not involved in the final step but I’ve seen the web based systems in action and they are all very good. These system are owned by the IT-departments (or similar departments) and are independed from all kind of software vendors (with the exception of licences fees for the underlying powerful RDBMS).

    Since the pilots are developed closed to the end users in the first step the implementation and the use of the solutions in their web based systems are well supported in the second step.

    When I look in my ‘crystal ball’ I can only see a future based on the web and which per se is demand driven.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  6. Wasn’t the old Microsoft binder close to what you are blogging about. How can the webbased google effort be used by people whose business requires confidentiality. Those systems would be great if they provided a user option to store on a user owned server. Most businesses cannot or should not use a third party server subject to others, competitors or government, ability to subpoena or hack.

  7. – James,

    “Wasn’t the old Microsoft binder close to what you are blogging about”

    Not in my opinion.

    “How can the webbased google effort be used by people whose business requires confidentiality?”

    This question may have several answers:

    # Large corporates will always use their own solutions and never depend on any outside vendor.

    # File servers can be used where business require more control of the stored information.

    # Well, this questions seems always be raised when discussion scenarios like web based services.

    The use of laptops and hand computers etc expose the corporates to an extremly (and unnecessary) risks to which it will require expensive solutions (to no avail as security is always one step behind the dark forces..)

    Recently a test was conducted at “HAL” where a specialist showed how all securities could be bypassed within 10 minutes on a laptop. What is the confidentiality rate to use these tools?

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  8. With respect to security of portable devices, any drive that can be mounted as an additional drive on a different, already running system can be viewed just like floppy disks of old. Impose whatever restrictive permissions you want on any PC’s NTFS harddisk volumes, then reboot from any live Linux CD and mount the NTFS harddisk volumes. Shouldn’t take as long as 10 minutes to be able to view and copy any file.

    Security comes from a combination of restricted physical access and encryption. Remove either and you no longer have security.

    That said, portable devices are a practical necessity until all storage is recentralized and there are ubiquitous thin clients that can connect to any VPN (or whatever its successor would be in the future). There’s always some risk of loss or misuse by others, so there’s no good reason not to mandate encryption for files on portable devices. If the encryption keys are reasonably long and irregular (and the encryption algorithm up-to-date), it’d take much longer than 10 minutes to crack any data file.

  9. Thanks for the input fzz :)

    It only took me 4:3o minutes to
    – remove the disc from my “HAL”-laptop (which has some protection facilities activated)
    – mount the disc in my Debian installation (Linux)
    – viewed all the contents of the disc.

    Amazing…

    Kind regards,
    Dennis


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