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Email is not dead (Demo

Email is not dead (Demo 2004 Series – 7) I continue to be an avid follower of what’s going on in the email space. Why? Here are some things to think about:


 


From my eRoom and Collaboration days, I’ve been very aware of the challenges to achieving adoption. My view is that the challenge exists whenever the adoption of a new application or system requires some degree of coordination between a set of users. Email is by far the greatest example of an application of computers which has very successfully overcome that barrier. I want to learn from that.


 


Second reason: I’ve observed that the tools we use to work with email (the general striucture email applications, email protocols, email use models) basically were laid down in the 1970’s. And yet, in the past 30 years (!) email’s role in society has totally changed, the volume of email has totally changed, the numbers of users have totally changed, the purposes of use have totally changed. It feels like we are due for a major re-think of the model.


 


Would it be the merging of Instant Messaging with Email? Might it be the merging of collaboration tools with Email. Might it be some fundamental move away from the Inbox/Outbox/Folders/Compose/Forward/Reply model to something perhaps more appropriate to the new world of email?


 


Anyway, back to Demo 2004. There were some interesting email “related” applications launched at Demo.


 


Bloomba Email Client: Bloomba 2.0 is, believe it or not, an Outlook replacement that is worth a look. They are literally and knowingly going head to head with Microsoft. They have a heavy emphasis on searching within the email, which as you know, I think is super important and overlooked. They’ve done a very nice job with the application, and as I say, worth a look.


 


MailBlocks Web Based Email client: This is a very interesting integration of email, calendar and contact information. I believe that there is also fancy spam filtering technology. But the neatest (and useful to me) feature is the automatic parsing of emails to locate contact info changes and meeting information and proposing them to you as calendar and address book updates. While there are multiple web based mail clients, this one has a neat angle. Very nice. If you are interested in this web based mail client, you should also check out OddPost, which is interesting because it’s a tour-de-force DHTML application that actually creates a real GUI Outlook Express like experience, all with just a browser, and no downloads.

Forced to use Atom. Well,

Forced to use Atom. Well, it’s happening… My friend Paul English has been using Blogger for the longest time for his personal blog. I often complained to him that I used a Blog Reader (FeedDemon is my current favorite, until BlogBridge comes out 🙂 and wouldn’t be able to follow his blog until he had a feed…


Well as you may know, Blogger now has a feed, and it’s uses the Atom format. In the ‘tempest in a teapot’ department, you might have followed the Atom/RSS battle, which took an interesting turn when Blogger (=Google) decided to support only Atom as their format. Clever strategic move or small minded vindictiveness?


So, Paul’s blog is the first time that I have been forced to use Atom. Luckily the latest Beta of FeedDemon does support Atom and so I can read Paul’s blog right along all my other favorites.


This is just another in the continuing format, API, or protocol conflicts which arise constantly in the our business. It’s a good kind of conflict because it raises important issues and allows things to evolve to a better place.


Remember VIM and MAPI? That battle shook the very foundations of the software industry at the time. (VIM stood for “Vendor Independent Messaging” but the running joke was that it really stood for “Vendors Ignoring Microsoft”, led by Lotus. Remember Lotus 😉 And more recently, how about SHTTP vs. HTTPS? HTTPS eventually became SSL which of course is all anyone remembers.


My point is that as our products and visions and customers and platforms move forward, there is a constant tension between evolution and compatibility. It’s clear that this is a good thing in the end, although a whole lot of glass is broken along the way. The one thing I know for sure is that it’s way too early to stop the evolution right now.

BlogBridge latest

Just a quick note about what’s up with BlogBridge. My time has been severely drained by a new consulting project, so progress has slowed down more than I would like. The last while I was knee-deep in installation, deployment, upgrade facilities. I looked at a bunch of possible ways of distributing,installing and then upgrading the application, evaluating 3 of them in detail. What a mess!

In the end I settled on Java Web Start. I used to think of this as a bit of a kludge, but it seems to be well suited to deployment and installation of Java apps, and with each release Sun seems to make it a little nicer. So that’s what I am going with.

I’ve learned far more than I ever wanted to know about the CLASSPATH, Jars, JNLP, and yada-yada-yada. Interesting though, but definitely heavy duty geekosity.

BlogBridge is still in what I would generously call a pre-alpha state. Not really usable. (FeedDemon is much better.) If a few people would like to try out the Java Web Start deployment, send me an email and we can talk.

Real Virtual Reality! (Demo 2004

Real Virtual Reality! (Demo 2004 Series – 6) I am not clear as to whether Total Immersion is a product, company, research product or what. But they had the most compelling and memorable technology demonstration. It was an amazing virtual reality experience of what they called â€œaugmented reality.”


Basically what we saw was a video and audio display in real time. The camera started on the presenter as he was talking. In his hand was a long stemmed rose. Except in real life, he was holding his left hand in a fist, and the flower was added virtually. Every move, translation, rotation etc of his fist was perfectly matched with the movement of the rose creating a perfect illusion. And there was a lot more. The demo ended with a virtual helicopter flying over the heads of the audience. Very impressive!


Of course one is always more impressed with technologies which appear to be ‘magic’ to the viewer. In this case, I know very little about VR and I am blown away. I can’t say if one ‘versed in the art’ would have thought the same or been bored.

Adobe Enterprise document control technology

Adobe Enterprise document control technology (Demo 2004 Series – 5) They have come up with a policy server to control and log access to pdf documents. I don’t think it has a name yet.


 


It is very similar but much more limited than Liquid Machine’s product (and Authentica.) 


 


They are all somewhat exposed to Microsoft’s recent DRM features in Office 2003. I don’t really know the details of Microsoft’s product but one likely fact is that it works only on Office documents which is a big limitation. P


 


eople sometimes don’t recognize that this is a severe limitation – after all, the whole world uses Office, doesn’t it. Well yes, but there are some key other formats out there which are every bit as sensitive as Word and Excel. Graphics (Photoshop, Illustrator) and Cad (Autodesk and SolidWorks) come to mind.

New in the world of

New in the world of Digital Photography (Demo 2004 Series – 4) The beat goes on in the world of Digital Photography. Two very nice (and one less nice) Photo Sharing products were launched at Demo this year. Quick notes on three of those.


 


PhotoSite from Homestead.  This is a very nice simple online photo album. It’s customizable and has very attractive album pages. There is an annual charge, but it’s probably worth it.


 


Share-a-lot. This is a different approach. It’s a very easy, peer to peer sharing of photos with specific other people. This is a free service, so the question does arise how they make money. Visually it is less attractive then Photosite. Also you have to specifically indicate with who you would like to share.


 


Our Pictures is a custom client which delivers pictures peer to peer to your friends and family. The interesting thing about the team building it is that they were the people who developed AOL’s “You Have Pictures” service. It shows: the user Interface is very nice. There’s also a tie-in with the photo retailer to order prints. I think they got it mostly right. They are providing a different transport to send pictures because for various reasons email isn’t ideal. That’s good. However I think they threw the baby out with the bathwater, because they don’t even use email for notification – they have a separate application and notification method.


 


By the way, here’s an article I came across that goes into more objective detail.

Key Computing’s Xkey: (Demo 2004

Key Computing’s Xkey: (Demo 2004 Series – 3) By my informal survey, this was the favorite at demo. XKey is a tiny USB port device (kind of like one of those little USB flash devices) which, by plugging into a laptop, transforms the host computer into a private, isolated, separate computer, connected by VPN to the corporate network.


 


It’s hard to explain in a few words, but basically you plug it into the USB port while your computer is connected to your corporate LAN. Magically files, folders, exchange and outlook data, are all copied onto the device. When you take it and plug it into another (‘host’) computer, you get access to all your work, plus your Exchange/Outlook information. All the information is secured inside a ‘sandbox’ and you are protected from and prohibited from letting any of it leak onto the ‘host’ computer. As I said, hard to explain. Look at their web site for more details.


 


The really clever thing here is to take a bit of raw technology (a portable, USB storage device) to something that solves a real, believable, pain point. Their product is clearly targeted at businesses who want to allow employees to securely use their corporate assets away from the office.


 


Among Demo attendees this one was often cited as the most interesting product demoed. And credit to Chris  Shipley, she must have seen that, because it was also the very first product to be demoed.