Thursday, August 31, 2006

[AoyW] UWB Wireless Finally Working?

A Japanese outfit I've never heard of has announced a Wireless USB hub. Is ultra-wideband finally going to escape from the demo hall into the real world?

This device is essentially a wireless docking station for your PC. You plug a flash-drive-sized UWB radio into a USB port on your laptop, and plug USB peripherals into their small hub unit. Voila, you're connected to your peripherals wirelessly.

If this gizmo actually works, terrific. Even if it does, it's a bit of a yawn. UWB is supposed to empower ultra-mobile devices, like media-pods, cameras, smartphones, and flash drives. Imagine a flash drive that you never have to plug in to access; walk up to any PC, and have access to all your data (and always-on-you web apps :-) at gigabit speeds. Here's hoping this is a first commercial step towards that future.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

[AoyW] The 'Web Office' Is a Tiny Niche

The web has solved a lot of problems in the past decade, but has had little impact on personal and team computing. We're still banging away in MS Office and shoving docs around via email, or piling them up on file servers. Any number of web-based online services and intranet software products have been offered to change this. They have seen relatively low adoption. As Exhibit A, I offer this Alexa graph of well-known web office (aka Office 2.0) sites, including—for contrast—the popular email-attachment manager:

click for full size

The Alexa numbers may well be inaccurate; what I find interesting are the trends of this graph. Why do they look so flat for all but email attachment distribution? I believe these services can't spread virally, unlike consumer web services, because business technology requires approval by management and IT staff. Management is leery of shipping confidential data out to web services run by a third party, and even if IT depts had ample time to evaluate new tools, they are uneasy about systems they can't control.

Certain "on-demand" apps like have made some headway among businesses which don't have the IT resources to deploy such solutions in-house. Management can approve outsourcing for capability which they couldn't otherwise access, e.g. CRM. But email is the only personal app which has made substantial headway as a service for businesses (perhaps because incoming email originates offsite anyway?)., the biggest success of the Web 1.0 team sites, was acquired last year for $45M, a little more than they'd raised in venture cap. That was after six years of chasing users. Can an AJAX UI change the adoption curve of such sites? Check the trend lines on the graph for and (the most popular of five Basecamp domains), and draw your own conclusion.

The online web just isn't reaching a lot of users in this space, and server-based intranet solutions don't spread virally either, as end-users can't set up servers. The always-on-you web can change that.

The always-on-you web is any web app that runs on a user device (laptop, Wi-Fi smartphone, flash drive) and shares data with other users on a p2p basis. It's a web app that doesn't require an intranet or online server. It's a web app that the user carries, so it's always-on-you, as opposed to always-on(-if-you're-online). And it's a mechanism which can spread virally in a business environment, because users can deploy it themselves.

Friday, August 18, 2006

[AoyW] The Office 2.0 Conference

I just came across the web site for the upcoming Office 2.0 Conference which has an interesting list of speakers from web 2.0 startups.

As you might expect, most or all of these outfits offer hosted or intranet solutions. As such, they have to run the gantlet of the corporate IT dept for vetting/approval before they can solve any user problems. In other words, they can't spread virally among most enterprise users, a problem which consumer web services don't have.

Nonetheless, the goals of these startups are much the same as those of the always-on-you web, even if their solution architecture is Web 1.1 :-)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

AOL Releases Search Logs. Who's Next?

Several hundred thousand paying AOL members have just been deliberately stripped of their privacy to the entire world.

Oh. My. God.

Now, folks, is there any question whatsoever that personal and business use of online apps like Writely, Basecamp, and Google Spreadsheets may be unwise?

As a member of such services, you don't own your data, and therefore you can't protect it.

Most ordinary web surfers already get this, which is why web-based personal computing apps have faired so poorly over the past decade. I wonder when the webtopian pundits are going to wake up.

Update: AOL's apology isn't remotely satisfactory. What are they doing to put the genie back in the bottle? They need to launch their legal eagles at those sites now redistributing this data, even if the license they attached to it allows redistribution.