Sunday, March 7, 2010

Google purchases DocVerse, validates Microsoft's cloud focus

You know how Steve Ballmer spent his Thursday talk at the RSA conference touting Microsoft’s commitment to (and leadership in) cloud computing? AsZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley put it, “there was no news,” just posturing and remessaging. The next day, though, Google certainly made some news and spent $25 million on DocVerse to bring Microsoft documents more easily into Google’s cloud environment.

By acquiring DocVerse, Google brought technology onboard that specifically enables high-fidelity editing of Microsoft Office documents in the cloud. In this case, it’s clear that Google Apps just got itself a shot in the arm of Office compatibility. While Apps had certainly been able to import and export Microsoft Office formats in the past, formatting and the richness enabled by a desktop application were often lost in translation.

According to Jonathan Rochelle, group product manager with the Google Apps team (via InformationWeek),

Google isn’t buying into Microsoft; rather it’s buying a bridge from Microsoft Office to the world of cloud computing. There are, after all, some 600 million Office users out there, according to DocVerse, and getting them to migrate to Google Apps won’t happen overnight.

The DocVerse software is actually a plugin to Office that allows the same sort of real-time collaboration and synchronous editing that can happen in Google Docs and, to a large extent, Microsoft’s Sharepoint Server. All changes get saved to the cloud (what will now presumably be Google Docs since this service supports saving of any file type without conversion to Docs formats) and reconciled in real time, even as users continue to work within their desktop Office applications.

DocVerse also allows at least commenting and review of high-fidelity documents online from any web browser, even if the user doesn’t have Office installed on the computer.

The real coup here, though, is that groups who are considering a move to Google Apps but are hesitant about losing the power of their desktop applications have no reason not to move. They can avoid setting up expensive Sharepoint infrastructures and use Office applications where appropriate while exploring the cloud-based utility of Apps. With Google’s promise of increased fidelity within Apps this year as well, it seems as though this positions them quite handily to take Apps adoption to the next level. Apps becomes everything from an automatic online backup to an extension of Office that enables collaboration to a full-blown replacement, depending upon a group’s requirements.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Google Transit makes your metro commute easier

Anyone who’s commuted in Delhi knows it’s nothing to blink at. Hour long traffic jams, choking fumes and an endless sea of cyclists, pedestrians, motorbikes, panhandlers, buses, cows, cars and carts make getting around India’s sprawling capital a challenge for even the best equipped. So when the first section of the Delhi metro opened in December 2002, it was hailed by residents as a welcome step towards a pleasant commute.

That being said, even with the construction of the metro, a city as big and ever changing as Delhi makes figuring out how to get from point A to B without asking several passersby (most of whom are likely to be as confused as you are) a challenge – particularly for tourists or those new to the city. That’s why Google Transit, a partnership between Google and Delhi Metro comes as a welcome announcement.

Google Maps will now provide not just driving directions, but also metro schedules and routes, offering detailed information on which metro lines to take, what time trains leave, where to switch, what the cost of the commute is, how long it the trip will take, and what services – whether these be ATMs, coffee shops or bars – are near a designated metro station. Google Transit will be available for free on data enabled mobile phones.

The service will continue to be updated as the Delhi Metro updates its information. The Google/DMRC partnership comes at a good time, given that Delhi expects a surge of tourism surrounding the Commonwealth Games in October.

Google has also launched the service in an experimental manner in Kolkata, as well as parts of Chennai and Hyderabad and has expressed an interest in partnering with multiple agencies in various regions. “If there are agencies out there who feel this service is useful, all they need to do is contact us and give us their data about routes and schedules,” says to Manik Gupta, product manager for Google Maps in India.

To get a sense of how commuters can use Google Transit, Mint asked Gupta to walk us through the service.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Google acquires Picnik: Perfect fit for Chrome OS

Today Google announced the acquisition of a company called Picnik. The service is actually quite impressive — it’s got all the basic photo editing stuff you would need for your photos, and a plethora of filters that can give you some pretty wild effects. On top of that, the guys who made this site have a really good sense of humor — try it out and you will see what I mean.

I remember back in the olden days when I used Photoshop just for the effects. Yeah, I know, why would you want to ruin your pictures by making them all blurry or making it look like your eyeballs are twice the size? Well, after playing around with Picnik on images that are in my Picasa Web Albums (extremely easy to integrate btw), I couldn’t help but be reminded of why you would do that — because it’s fun.

This tool is going to be a huge win for Chrome OS. Every netbook that uses the operating system will have full access to a really good photo editor — something you traditionally needed a desktop client for. Hopefully Google makes all the features Picnik has completely free like they have in the past with previous acquisitions.

Have you had a chance to play with it yet? What do you think?