The (Google) Wave goodbye

August 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Google announced today that its experimental product, Google Wave will be discontinued in the near future and that development had ceased on it. It was a surprise although not a shock. The Wave had a much heralded launch[link 1][link 2] last year at the Google I/O conference. Attendees tweeted and blogged about this spectacular new Google offering that could and would change the way we communicate forever.

As an early adopter of the tool, I was unsure of how to make good use of it. Soon I found out that I was not alone. The Wave was an excellent and cool product that had no obvious use. I am sure creative people found ways to make best use of this cool piece of software but for the lay person like me, it was a challenge to figure out what to do with it. I forced myself to migrate some common Google Docs and Gmail related tasks to the Wave hoping for a productivity boost. No such luck. The Google Wave link languished in my bookmarks waiting for the day it will be chosen to be used.

To be fair to Google, this was an experimental product whose ideas and code probably will creep into other Google offerings and make them better. But as a standalone product, the Wave did not create a wave. Instead, it will go down as one of the more high profile failures of Google. For what its worth, it was definitely an interesting approach to online communication and integrating its static and dynamic forms into one seamless unit.

Its all about the cloud

June 5, 2010 § 2 Comments

Cloud Computing has been quite the buzz word for the last few years and rightfully so. From PC OS vendors like Microsoft and Apple to data storage vendors to mobile handset OS developers, everybody has been talking about moving “it” to the cloud. So what does the “it” refer to and why is the “cloud” so important.

To understand the value proposition of the cloud architecture, look no further than salesforce.com and Amazon Elastic Services. When Oracle and SAP were trying to get the enterprise to commit to heavy duty hardware and software to run their tools, Marc Benioff came in and said, away with all those. He offered small and medium businesses a completely web based on-demand service (termed as SaaS or Software as a Service) to manage everything that Oracle and SAP allowed them to do at a fraction of the cost. This was truly a revolution.

Fast forward a few years later to the Amazon story. Amazon, not content with its tremendous success with its ecommerce platform was experimenting with its own version of cloud based computing that would allow small and medium businesses to rely on Amazon’s computing infrastructure to crunch massive amounts of data at a per byte/per minute/ per computation cost. This lowered the barrier of entry for startups that needed the computing power without the significant initial investment. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is now a big hit for the company and is starting to contribute in a small way to the giant’s bottom line.

A recent yet incredibly successful attempt at Cloud services is the Google Apps system. The solution from Google, free for most users and for a small fee for SME’s has been a big success story. It has truly questioned the Microsoft domination of the word processing and office documentation segment. It has also offered cloud based storage of such documents. It has been so popular that MS had to launch its online version of its Office toolset called Office Live to combat the threat.

All this brings us to the cloud based battle brewing in the mobile space. Google with its pioneering Apps service has a headstart on the rest by integrating a lot of its cloud services on the Android OS. While the success of its recently launched Kin handsets for teens is debatable, Microsoft has a legitimate smart approach to cloud storage of mobile data with its Kin Studio service. There is now talk that Apple will make its MobileMe service, currently offered to Mac customers for $99 a year will become a free part of the Apple iPhone user experience. It makes no sense for Apple to charge for services that Google and Microsoft offer for free. Rumors seem to indicate that it will indeed become free as of this WWDC.

It is obvious that cloud computing and cloud storage is the way forward, be it for enterprises and their complex software or a mobile device with rich user content. Most of us are incredibly dependent on the cloud – we just haven’t realized it yet.

Improving the classroom learning experience

May 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Technology that truly impacts how good things can be done better is worth knowing, understanding and appreciating. As a lifelong student I have been interested to know how technology can, is and will impact education. A press release from Cisco today on its suite of classroom learning tools is worth taking note of.

The full press release is here:

http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2010/prod_050310.html?CMP=AF17154&vs_f=News@Cisco:+News+Releases&vs_p=News@Cisco:+News+Releases&vs_k=1

I wont claim to be an expert and evaluate Cisco’s word on the matter. We will take it as it is – they have lived up to their claims for a long time now to be questioned on it. The suite in its entirety is pretty exciting in what it claims it can do. It will truly change distance education and e-learning systems if implemented fully. What I am curious to know is how can it impact low income education systems and school boards on a budget crunch (as almost all of the country is today)?. Can it save money for the school district or university system while improving on things as it stands today?

The other dimension to this technological evolution in how education is delivered is more personal – is there a downside to our dependence on such systems for learning?. When I was doing my undergrad, I used to have a handwriting that was appreciated and well respected. Once I hit grad school and subsequently a career in technology, my handwriting has significantly deteriorated. Reason- I use electronic systems to do most of my reports and communication. There is no value for the written word. The same is true for our memories. The more I trust my smartphone to handle my tasks and phone numbers and such, the less I focus on trying to retain this information in my head. As we head towards the smart learning systems that truly are innovative and ground breaking, do we stand to lose something else in the process?

Tools for web application development

April 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

One of my goals has been to build a web application that provides something of value to people. Given my non-programming background, I have had to learn about things the hard way especially in such a fast developing environment where the tool in vogue yesterday is a non-player today. So I have been learning and gathering information about the key technologies in this space – Ruby on Rails, Python with Django and Perl with Catalyst.

What is interesting to note is that most of them are built on the philosophy of the MVC (Model View Controller) pattern and pretty much do the same for a novice developer. I am sure as I dig deeper, there will be nuances that each of them have that set them apart from the rest. But as I skim through these technologies, the motivation, architecture and some of the ways they are implemented are very similar.

I found this link useful to take my baby steps on the project: http://www.bestwebframeworks.com/

I have not had a chance to explore the Java friendly frameworks namely Struts, Hibernate and Spring. I hope to take a look at them in the near future. Given the very limited amount of time I have to spare on the matter and the very large set of tools available to do the job, it is proving to be a good learning experience that is yet to translate into actual action.

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