Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Google/Writely points to online/offline future

UPDATE: I’ve just woken up to find the Google/Writely thing was on the money.

The Great Om reckons there’s a rumour floating around about Google buying Writely.I’ve got some thoughts (surprise, surprise)…

Regular Squash readers would be aware of my AJAX Challenge, whereby I’ve been holding out installing a desktop Office suite to see if AJAX alternatives could cut the mustard. Now, this might be an anti-climatic way to announce it but AJAX lost the challenge. Last week I installed OpenOffice and now that it’s on my machine, my useage of online apps has dropped dramatically.

Why? Online spreadsheets are ordinary. If Zoho had of gotten Zoho Sheet out earlier it might have helped. iRows has promise but the feel just didn’t grab me. But in the end, I had to print out a really important document and just couldn’t make it look right in either Writely or ZohoWriter. So I downloaded OpenOffice and once I had it loaded up, I did the job in minutes. Unfortunately, as soon as you bring things like tables in the equation and want to format for print, online wordprocessors just aren’t there yet.

(As an aside, I think wordprocessors as we use them are pretty much a redundant application anyway. Most of what we write should logically now be done inside your email application or your blogging/publishing tool. It’s only complex document designed for print that really need to be created in something like Word and in this instance a low-end desktop publishing tool like Publisher might even make more sense anyway. I don’t think it will be long before Word and Publisher come together).

Anyway, back to the Google and Writely thingy. The possibility of this happening excites me for one very, significant reason. I reckon Google knows that Writely and other like products out there are for the most part crap. As Writely exists now, it’s a niche solution with little scope for generating significant revenues.

Doesn’t make any sense therefore for Google to have its precious resources tied up in building this kind of product. It should be able to pick Writely up pretty cheaply and in the proces bring in some talented developers. Writely, for all it’s limitations, is a neat piece of coding (as are the Zoho tools) and these guys will be an asset to whoever picks them up.

But if it’s such a niche, no-nothing market, why would Google bother at all?

Because, whereas most people think Google is working towards a future where everything we do is online and will happen inside a browser, I don’t think Google is thinking along those lines, at least in the medium term.

Rather, I think events over the past week amplify the fact that Google is working towards a seamless online/offline experience.

Let’s look at the analyst briefing presentation that came to public attention earlier this week. Google described a situation where your local drive acts as a high-speed cache of your central GDrive repository of data. THIS IS IMPORTANT. It’s open recognition that people will continue to work on their hard-drives and in desktop applications. In fact, in the presentation Google recognises that there are bandwidth and storage limitations that currently are preventing them from achieving the nirvana of a total online experience.

When you accept that Google isn’t working towards forcing everything into a browser, suddently a lot of things make sense. Like the OpenOffice agreement. Like the fact that they bought Picassa when they could easily have bought a Flickr-like service. Like the aggressive fashion in which they’re ramping up Google Desktop, especially the recent move to try and replicate online and offline data stores.

So this is how I see it working. Google Desktop is used to synchronise your local drive with your GDrive (with Lighthouse probably being the tool that you use to decide who can access and share what data). If your working on your regular computer, click a document and it opens up into OpenOffice Writer. If your on a public workstation log into GDrive, click on the same document and it opens up in Writely. (Oh and Writely becomes the standard text editor across GMail, Blogger, etc). Same goes for your photos with Picassa and then variously other kinds of documents.

Now wouldn’t that be cool?

Filed under: AJAX Challenge, Google, Online Applications, Online Spreadsheets, Online Wordprocessing

39 Responses

  1. Caitlin says:

    Phil, while you are providing late afternoon/early evening entertainment for me in my breaks from writing a feature, I am conscious that this post was post at almost 4 o’clock in the morning, Sydney time. Go to bed!

  2. Caitlin says:

    (Cue Rob Irwin to write the same comment as he did last time: ‘Phil, you’ve been told’.)

  3. Peggy says:

    Phil,
    But, but I cannot keep up. You are on a roll again, now ranked at #4.

    You were so excited about the Google/Writely post, you posted it twice — :)

    I like the idea of OpenOffice doc on the desktop and web access on GDrive.

    I don’t know though, with all of the competition flaring up (MS, Google, Yahoo, Web 2.0), I feel the need to wait awhile for the dust storms to settle. Who/what will be in this space next year!

    Like, MS annoucing it recently acquired Onfolio(an extension/plugin for IE and Firefox). Good news, they are offering it free (for now) in their Live Toolbar, bad news – and certainly not a shocker, no support more for Firefox :(

  4. […] Phil Sim from Squash has an interesting take on Writely’s potential for Google, and an equally interesting take on Google’s direction. […]

  5. Caitlin says:

    Number 4 on what? Where are these rankings to be found? I want to go look.

    Phil, I can’t believe you’re up again already. Either you don’t need to sleep more than two hours a night or having a small child in the house and a real job gave you no choice.

  6. Peggy says:

    @ Caitlin:

    It is a WordPress.com Hot Blogs today rank, and right now Phil/Squash is #2, ~~ w00t ~~

    http://wordpress.com/ … to view.

  7. Online vs. Offline

    Here’s some interesting stuff in the offline vs. online debate (that is, is the online AJAX experience enough?). I guess that you already know that Google’s bought Writely.

  8. Google Writelys a check

    Writely an online wordprocessor with some collaboration features, which we reviewed back in September 2005 has become Google’s newest acquisition.

    Jen Mazzon from the Google Writely Team explains:
    … everyone told us it was crazy to try an…

  9. […] An alternate take on why Online Office Apps don’t really cut the mustard. […]

  10. […] Phil has some great posts explaining his perspective of what Google has going on. You can read some of my favorites here, here and here. […]

  11. Travis S. says:

    Since they have an agreement with OpenOffice, why not work this those folks to have it work online. That way, in the case you mentioned, if you are on your computer you open a document and it uses OpenOffice – why not the same for the files stored online, that is if OpenOffice can be adapted for online use as well? Just a thought…

  12. Alejandro says:

    Openoffice makes the jobs I need :) don’t need more ;)

  13. Eric says:

    You left out the quintessential example of this, Google Earth.

    The web browser is powerful because it’s ubiquitous, an application that can run in a web browser can run on pretty much any PC on the planet. But, the web browser really is a thin client; there’s massive processing power on the client side which is effectively going unused, and I agree with you that Google is working to tap into that.

    But what it will take is more powerful, specialized browsers for viewing different kinds of data. I strongly suspect that what Google will wind up doing with Picasa is that the application will become the client for a Flickr-like application. A photo browser for the web, with seamless transition between locally stored and online photos. There will probably be a purely web-based version as well, but it will share the same relationship as Google Maps and Google Earth, the latter offering a much richer experience because of its ability to utilize client side resources.

    That may ultimately be the direction they go in with Office. Some version of OpenOffice will be a “document browser” for viewing that document data, with some less powerful web based version (Writely) available as well.

  14. Gdrive + Writely

    Although Writely would have a difficult time to gain traction as a standalone service, it would be a different story if it was introduced to wide range of users as a „one click“ alternative to offline editing option. Google did a similar exercise w…

  15. Alejandro says:

    How is that they are buying it without beeing even a stable release :?

  16. Gabbahead says:

    We use Word a lot in the magazine field, but a merger with Publisher would be foolish – Indesign is the preferred publishing application. But an online system will also aid us. As you said, it’s about seamless online/offline integration. With a system like Writely editing and monitoring documents that go through several people and processes will be a lot easier. You still need the offline component, especially because some users would be reluctant to move online. There’s also the case of when your broadband link goes down.

    Also, Word or OpenOffice’s Write are far from redundant. No blog editor or equivalent gives the same depth of spell checking and other functions that make story processing just that little bit easier.

    So it’s a matter of having our cake and eating it. If Google plans some interesting integration between OpenOffice and Writely, it can open a world of possibility. My email client is alreayd Gmail, mainyl because it means I don’t have to drag around a mail backup anymore, plus it’s perfect for when you travel. An easy to access and centralised document system that is online holds a lot of potential for people like me or any team that do a lot of collaborative writing/editing.

  17. alan jones says:

    …or maybe Google thinks the browser we use in the future will behave less like a browser and more like an OS, in which case, Writely 1.0 (not the current release) would make a perfectly adequate solution, no download of OpenOffice required.

    In my experience sharing docs with people and trying to encourage people to edit them, I’ve found people to be very reluctant to mess with my docs and very reluctant to let me mess with theirs. In journalism, of course, you get that beaten out of you very early on, but the rest of the world is not used to being edited, or editing others.

    The other cultural issue is that for as long as anyone can remember, Word (and before it WordPerfect) have been very unpredictable when it comes to formatting and layout – you can’t easily mess with a highly structured doc without completely ucking up the layout or the formatting if you’re not the author (and sometimes not even then.)

    So while I personally find document sharing to be the major benefit to working with Writely, I’ve yet to meet many others ready to do the same, and it takes two to.

  18. […] I recently read Squash’s article discussing the future of the Internet being based upon an online/offline way of living (full article here). The key example is the Google acquisition of Writely, the online word processor, but a better known example is Google’s Picasa software. Picasa is a photo organizer, and a lot of people are speculating that Google will release a web application that sync’s up with the Picasa photos on your desktop and publishes them on the Internet for all to see. This online/offline speculation is ignoring a few key points, however. […]

  19. […] Squash » Blog Archive » Google/Writely points to online/offline future Phil Sim from Squash has an interesting take on Writely’s potential for … It is a WordPress.com Hot Blogs today rank, and right now Phil/Squash is #2, … […]

  20. […] Squash » Blog Archive » Google/Writely points to online/offline future Phil Sim from Squash has an interesting take on Writely’s potential for … It is a WordPress.com Hot Blogs today rank, and right now Phil/Squash is #2, … […]

  21. moo says:

    Google operates like an AirLine, they do not have ENOUGH seats (storage), they rely on the fact NOBODY will use up ALL their storage quota. They overbook.

    Its a doomed model.

  22. […] Squash Blog Archive Google/Writely points to online/offline Regular Squash readers would be aware of my AJAX Challenge, whereby I ve been holding out installing a desktop Office suite to see if AJAX alternatives could cut the mustard. […]

  23. […] Squash » Blog Archive » Google/Writely points to online/offline future Phil Sim from Squash has an interesting take on Writely’s potential for … It is a WordPress.com Hot Blogs today rank, and right now Phil/Squash is #2, … […]

  24. […] Squash » Blog Archive » Google/Writely points to online/offline future Phil Sim from Squash has an interesting take on Writely’s potential for … It is a WordPress.com Hot Blogs today rank, and right now Phil/Squash is #2, … […]

  25. […] Squash » Blog Archive » Google/Writely points to online/offline future Phil Sim from Squash has an interesting take on Writely’s potential for … It is a WordPress.com Hot Blogs today rank, and right now Phil/Squash is #2, … Permalink TrackBack […]

  26. […] Squash Blog Archive Google/Writely points to online/offline Regular Squash readers would be aware of my AJAX Challenge, whereby I ve been holding out installing a desktop Office suite to see if AJAX alternatives could cut the mustard. […]

  27. […] Squash Blog Archive Google/Writely points to online/offline Regular Squash readers would be aware of my AJAX Challenge, whereby I ve been holding out installing a desktop Office suite to see if AJAX alternatives could cut the mustard. […]

  28. […] Squash Blog Archive Google/Writely points to online/offline future Phil Sim from Squash has an interesting take on Writely s potential for … It is a WordPress.com Hot Blogs today rank, and right now Phil/Squash is #2, … […]

  29. Bob says:

    Too many spelling errors. That’s the web, for ya.

  30. […] Squash Blog Archive Google/Writely points to online/offline future Phil Sim from Squash has an interesting take on Writely s potential for … It is a WordPress.com Hot Blogs today rank, and right now Phil/Squash is #2, … […]

  31. […] Squash ” Blog Archive ” Google/Writely points to online/offline future … Squash. Stop here for a Web 2.0 reality check … Regular Squash readers would be aware of my AJAX Challenge, whereby I’ve been holding out installing a desktop Office … […]

  32. […] Squash Blog Archive Google/Writely points to online/offline future Phil Sim from Squash has an interesting take on Writely s potential for … It is a WordPress.com Hot Blogs today rank, and right now Phil/Squash is #2, … […]

  33. […] Squash Blog Archive Google/Writely points to online/offline future Phil Sim from Squash has an interesting take on Writely s potential for … It is a WordPress.com Hot Blogs today rank, and right now Phil/Squash is #2, … Permalink TrackBack […]

  34. [URL]http://www.musica-latina.anticoit.org[/URL]

  35. […] Phil Sim writes that Writely has little scope for generating significant revenues for revenue. No financial details out yet but Nik Cubrilovic says that Google paid much less than $5m. Photo Credit: Om Written by Amit Agarwal for Digital Inspiration. All Rights Reserved. […]

  36. […] the future of the Internet being based upon an online/offline way of living (full article here). The key example is the Google acquisition of Writely, the online word processor, but a better […]

  37. […] Google compra o Writely. Eu que ando desplugada recebi a notícia ao mesmo tempo pela Neli me pelo fff. Interessante ler esta notícia juntamente com esta reflexão: Google/Writely points to online/offline future. […]

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