Thursday, March 1, 2007


Following a post on Mark's Guide (Thanks Mark!) me and a couple of friends went to hear the Google@work seminar they had today in Boston.
I have to admit, I am amazed at how Google are doing things. To me, they are really good at everything they do, which is a paradox in itself. But it's true: how many people aren't Gmail users these days?
And they had a number of winning points: Web search is something we see as obvious these days. information is at our fingertips in a fraction of a second. when people were asked to rate web search between good/moderate/bad, almost everyone raised their hands at good or moderate. but enterprise information? documents? painful sigh...
I actually took down a couple of their mantras for development:
  • FAST is better than SLOW: Develop iteratively instead of big bang ('cos your product, build to 2-year-old requirements, is gonna stay orphan)
  • SIMPLE is better than COMPLEX: self explanatory. Complex doesn't fly period.
  • And this one I really liked: ASSUME CHAOS AND DEAL WITH IT. Oh how true.
So Google are after enterprises, this is good news in itself. It contains a suite of docs+excel solutions, calendar (including collaboration, which I thought was pretty useful), Email (including your company email address, but Gmail-like interface), and others. Difficult to see how larger organizations would turn over, but bigger changes happened. Google have a free version that lacks some of the APIs, and a premier version that's $50/skull/year. Compare to any of your desktop applications: how much do those cost?
Here's a couple of notes I made to myself during the seminar:
  1. As a vision, fantastic for startups: Do you really have time and $$ for an IT staff and equipment (Exchange/backup/code control/Spam/Anti Virus...) ? (BTW, the Google guy quoted $8 of every $10 in IT budget goes on "keeping the lights on". I thinks that's not far from being true. If this Google product does well, my heart goes to the IT people...
  2. "Always connected": Well, Google are betting on this horse. Honestly, "always connected" is probably true for, if I had to guess, 85% of the workforce. But- there's those 15%. If you go into that prospect in Asia, who takes away your blackberry and puts it in a red-striped plastic bag, as you go up the elevator you realize your PPT is on Google Docs and you're unlikely to get access to the web, you're feeling kinda stupid. I'm not against the "always connected" approach, but they have to think of an additional comfortable feature that will allow you to "pack to go" the critical & backup documents you may need for the trip.
  3. Backup: I think I clearly heard it in the room: "Storage is free". Well, I got to tell you, I am far more worried about automated backup solutions than sharing excel sheets online. Show me a startup whose not scrambling for sensible backup solution. that should be a trivial task for Google
  4. And last, code (+documents) configuration management systems: Now here's one I have strong feelings about. Every software organizations either has huge mess in their code (AKA Spaghetti) because they have no configuration management systems, OR, they have a large server somewhere with 3-4 people trying to configure the heck out of it. Here's an exercise: your customer calls you because they found a bug in the (Latest-2) version software you released them. They won't take the latest code because they just spent 2 weeks integrating their stuff into it. If you don't have a configuration management system, good luck! What's my point? My point is that this is a painful issue for EVERY SW company. For those familiar with those systems (P4, VCS,...) they are done anyway on the intranet from a central server. So why not make that server a Google server??? Hey Google, I think this is a selling product, send me a check anytime :-)
To summarize, it was nice to see these things coming from Google. Not quite there for me but certainly on their way. I recommend for people to have a look at their free version, it's pretty cool.
As a small prize, some good networking awaited at the end of the seminar. I met with a couple of people and quickly demoed ConnexTo. Two of the guys were Japanese, knew the world about code scanning in Japan and had good ideas of how code scanning could be widely used in everyday life. But what I liked best is the spark in their eyes when they saw ConnexTo performing. Then they said "we gotta talk!"
That felt good :-)

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