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Tag: Google Apps

Photo Credit: freeimages.com/Javier Ramirez
Back to School Night

Back to School Night

Google is taking over Macs in schools!  Chromebooks and Google Classroom seem to be making some serious inroads in the K-12 education.  For every Mac we saw tonight, I saw a technology cart full of Chromebooks.  It is fascinating to see the adoption of technology in the classroom. The students seem to love it and enjoy the content. Teachers were more dubious.  With all new technologies, some glitches were experienced and some people adapt to new technologies faster than others.

A couple of teachers seemed less than thrilled, but everyone else had positive comments as to the role of the new electronic tools. Many teachers prefer the Chromebooks to Macs for the students.  They commented on cost and the benefit of having one for every student.  In addition, they liked how students could start on an assignment at school and finish it at home.  They days of “I forgot my assignment at home” are gone since all the data is stored in the cloud.

It will be fascinating to see how the technology evolves over the next decade.

Photo Credit: Google
Could it be the consumer that actually wins the office productivity software war?

Could it be the consumer that actually wins the office productivity software war?

Google has a new ad campaign that is directly taking on Microsoft’s baby, Office. Google has been doing very well head-to-head against Microsoft’s Internet service offerings; however, office productivity is one area where they may just be out of their league.  This is a serious revenue source for Microsoft, and they will play for keeps.

Microsoft has recognized the threat of Google Apps and has started to move in its lumbering pace towards a confrontation. Look at the deployment options consumers will have in the next release of Microsoft Office. Office 2010 will have a web-based version similar to Google Apps, mobile device support, and a full-blown application for local installation. Microsoft has even announced that it would have an ad-supported consumer version of Office Web Applications, the web based Office application.

I have been using Microsoft’s Office Live Workspace for several months and it is a great service. It is web-based collaborative storage service that integrates very well with Microsoft Office. This foundation is a glimpse of the future Office Web Applications.  Additionally, the Microsoft Web Applications will not have some of the document conversion issues that are encountered when working with Microsoft Office files in Google Apps.

Google Apps is a quality application suite, and I have written positively about my experience with the suite.  I still use Google Apps to host my personal e-mail domain. Even though the applications are well designed and feature rich, they are not Microsoft Office or even Open Office. I am reading and hearing of more deployments of Google Apps in education and at municipal government level.  This has the potential to save these institutions substantial amounts of money, but I am not sure how they are addressing the inherent security issues that come with Internet based data storage.

For me, I have to question Google’s focus. Google is moving forward on many different fronts and against large established competitors. Below is a list of a few Google products and the associated competitors. The more I think about it, it does seem like Google has a target in mind.

Offering

Function

Competitors

Android Mobile Device OS Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, RIM, etc.
Chrome Web browser Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera
Chrome OS Operating System Microsoft, Apple, Open Source
Apps Office productivity Microsoft, IBM, Open Source, Sun, etc.
Gmail Email Microsoft, Yahoo, IBM, etc.
Search Web, Enterprise, Desktop Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.

Microsoft and Google know the value of business consumers, and they will fight long and hard for their dollars. Office productivity is a core technology suite with large budgets in most corporations. In Microsoft’s latest 10-K filing, they report the Microsoft Business Division annual revenue at $18,894,000,000.  Microsoft Office systems generate over 90% of Microsoft Business Division revenue; this is serious business indeed.

No one will argue that Microsoft does not have the strongest brand and market penetration with Office. From a typical business professional point of view, and given that the access methods were similar, which would you choose Microsoft Office or Google Apps? I am betting that it would be Microsoft Office. To the majority of users, it is a known application interface and the file format is globally supported in the business community. Especially when you take into account that under the new Office 2010 business software licensing agreements that employees working from their non-primary computer, like from home, will have access to the non-ad supported web version at no additional cost. This is reminiscent of the good old days when the 80/20 software deployment rule was standard.

Both programs are going to get even better and the product offerings will only improve under stiffer competition. Microsoft should come out on top as long as they do not rest on their laurels. Ultimately, the consumer will have access to better applications no matter where they are located and at lower cost.  Will this application access freedom be an IT headache? You bet it will, and I can see the arguments brewing now.  In fact, I have already participated in a few.

Photo Credit: Michael Cruse
How close are you to having everything online?

How close are you to having everything online?

I sleep well at night knowing that virtually all of my personal information is stored online.  Really, the only personal data that is not permanently stored online are my photo albums and my music collection.  However, these files are backed up nightly to a remote online server (iDrive).  I know that I can move the last of my data online without too much effort, but I really do not see a benefit.

I sleep better knowing that my documents are stored on some of the best storage arrays, operated by some the the best admins, located in good data-centers.  If my house burns down, or is broken into, my data is safe and accessible.

It is critical that you practice very good password management and keep your computer clean from (x)ware.  I do understand that these large companies can lose data as well or even shutdown the service all together.  It is just a lot less likely they will suffer a loss verses an individual person.  As a precaution, every other month, I change all of my passwords and download all my files that I then burn on to a couple of DVDs.  I trust the platforms of Google and Microsoft more than I trust any single computer.

I have moved all of my “Office” type documents to Microsoft Office Live Workspace.  I was using Google Docs for a while, but I did not like some of the minor formatting changes that happened to my historical Microsoft Office documents.  I still strongly feel that Google Docs would make a good choice for a smaller start-up that had limited resources.  That being said, I have found that Office Live Workspace is really suited to my personal and family needs.  I use Microsoft Office extensively and it integrates perfectly with Office 2007.  I can see many uses of Office Live Workplace in smaller companies that have investment in Microsoft Office, collaborative groups, or companies that have a field presence.

I have access to all of my documents no matter where I am or the computer that I am working on, obviously Internet access is required. I can use a web browser or access documents or right from the open menu in Office.  I may not be able to edit some of the documents if I am on a computer that does not have Microsoft Office (or OpenOffice) installed, but I can certainly view them all.  And really, this works just fine for most situations.

Microsoft recently increased the storage of Live Workplace to 5 GB, and this easily handles all of my personal documents.  You create document workspaces, folders, and can share the workspaces with other people.  Right now, my wife and I share a couple of workspaces that contain the common household documents.  I have other workspaces for personal research, blog ideas, old work files from my consulting days, etc.

This is by far one of the most productive, FREE, services that Microsoft has released.  If you take Office Live Workspace with Microsoft’s SkyDrive service, which includes 25GB of free storage, you can really start storing massive amounts of information online. Obviously you want to use some common sense about what you store online, but I have found it to be incredibly useful.

I am about simplifying my life, and my computing needs.  This is just one person’s honest appreciation for quality services.

Photo Credit: Google
Google Notebook and Tasks

Google Notebook and Tasks

Over the last couple of months, I have written a series of postings about my experience with Google Apps. I used Google Apps as a test to assess usability of the hosted office productivity applications and to look for opportunities where they may be deployed in a corporate setting. Over all this was a positive experience, and I thought the Google solution is viable for smaller companies that have limited resources and infrastructure. The more I have thought about the application suite, the more areas I can see where a potential deployment would make sense in a larger company, such as, supporting a field based sales force.

One area that has troubled me was the lack of task manager. In the Microsoft Outlook world, you would use “Outlook Tasks” but I found no direct coloration to a competing Google application. At first, I believed this was a major oversight on Google’s part, but now, I am not so sure.

I started to use the Google Calendar and Google Notebook applications to work as a task manager. This worked OK, kind of, but I never really got the hang of it. I found many web-based alternative products, but I really wanted to stay with Google for my test. I went back and started to search how others were tackling the problem.

This is a long way of saying, that I was not using the Google applications very effectively.

In one of my Internet journeys, I came across a very good article on Lifehacker.com by Gina Trapani about how to use Google Notebook as a task manager. Take a moment and read her article; It is well worth it.

I liked the method she outlined, and I have adopted it for the last two weeks. I found it required some adaptation on my part, but in reality what doesn’t? When used properly, the Google Notebook application is an effective task manager. You must have a planning system, or process, you follow regularly or any task management application you choose will fail.

I am a big fan of FraklinCovey’s methods of planning and organization and found that I could adapt Google Notebook to their planning process without a great degree of difficulty. When you get down to it, the Google Notebook application is very flexible and can be adapted in many different ways to fit your preferred task management method.

The links below are to my other posting about Google’s applications and services.