Maybe Google was on to something? And not mention other front runners such as Zoho and Writely (which was purchased by Google)? Many recent articles and blogs have highlighted how Microsoft, IBM, and Adobe are entering in to the online publication world. This can be good and bad for the world of education.
First of all, if you aren’t totally familiar with what is going on, PC World has a good article that summarizes the recent happenings. Here’s the basics: Adobe purchased Buzzword, a Flash-based online Word processor. IBM released Lotus Symphony, an open-source Office-like program based on OpenOffice.org software. Some speculate that they will connect this with some online service at some point. Microsoft released Office Live Workspace, a place for Office users to store documents online, allowing users to download and share collaborative documents. Even though, to be fair, Zoho (see Zoho Projects) and others has been offering stuff like this for a while.
Now, if you are like me, the Microsoft Office Live Workspace is just, well, meh. I hate to use a cliché word like ‘meh,’ but that best describes it. Just a password protected place to store documents online? I can rent webspace for $20 a year and do the same thing. Nice try, Microsoft – but I still don’t think you get Web2.0 yet.
I really wanted to turn this post into a review of all the new options, but I sadly can’t. Buzzword is not accepting new users right now – you can sign up to be on the wait list. Still waiting. They say they are the first real Online Word Processor. That’s just arrogant. Being in Flash might give them an edge over AJAX-based stuff like Google Docs, but you guys still aren’t the first real one. Writely, Zoho, and a host of others are still technically real.
I’ve tried to try out Lotus Symphony, but it is the freakiest experience I have had so far. I had to installed a Java applet just to download it (?!?). A lot of options came up after that that I wasn’t comfortable with. Installing the whopping 140mb file that downloaded on my computer was twisted and complex – and I know some complex programming techniques and languages. If I ever get this figured out, maybe I’ll write a review. I don’t see more than a few really patient people (more patient than me) getting in to this one.
So how is this good and bad for education? Well, the heat up in competition shows that free online applications are the next big thing. Free is always good for education. The bad for education? Well, this is all online. Good if you are at a school with relaxed filtering standards. Not so good if you are at a school with a “filter Nazi” in charge of the IT department. Also – when you have so many companies re-creating the wheel – you have too many wheels to chose from, and none of them work together very well. Not to mention to many sites to track – or the fact that some sites claim rights to use (or even own) the content that you store there.
We’ll see where all of this leads. In my opinion, Zoho is still the best option for any online publishing needs.