Web inventor foretells the next wave

Says Linked Data is becoming important for socially connected communities as it helps people find information about each other. Comments on latest developments at the W3C

Everyone was waiting to hear Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the second day of Lotusphere 2012 at Orlando, Florida. We wondered about the expected announcement on Web standards. And IBM got Sir Berners-Lee to break the news at a keynote at Lotusphere 2012.  He spoke of link data and how it was becoming increasingly important in socially connected communities. Very recently, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which is led by Berners-Lee, made some recommendations in a report  on how standards around social networking could lead to innovation in business.

“We are moving from a Web of documents, which people do not understand, to things like calendars and address cards, which are understandable. When you pack all this together you can get to a person and to their friends, and go through the music they like and find other important things like which town they were born in. You can do all these things using all the data you had access to,” said Berners-Lee.

This concept will allow you to link across and compare data from different applications, added Berners-Lee. So an address book and another application might be able to share some of the fields. Because the data is stored separately from the applications, it will become easier to move data sets from one application to another.
The inventor of the Web also made references to the W3C’s Social Business Community Group. W3C is an international community where member organizations and the public work together to develop Web standards.

In a recently published report the W3C outlines how the Social Business Community Group will evolve social networking standards around customer-driven use cases. This report is the outcome of the Social Business Jam, an online event that occurred last November. The event, which used IBM’s Collaboration Jam platform, explored how standards around social networking, such as those developed by the Federated Social Web XG, could lead to increased innovation throughout the business cycle.
Later in the day, Angel Diaz, VP, Software Standards and the Cloud, IBM offered more details.

“For the Social Standards Business Jam we got thousands of people from across the world to talk about the use cases where the standards need to work together. The output led to the formation of the W3C’s Social Business Community, that was launched this week. It will define use cases for evolving standards; the W3C will take those standards to the different standards bodies to make sure that they work well together. IBM will contribute its use cases,” said Diaz.

Standards like OAuth, OpenSocial, Activity Stream, Open ID and HTML 5 will make it easier for businesses to adopt social applications.
“The thing that I am excited about is the way social business is arising and how people are collaborating through this new power of linked data,” said Berners-Lee.


IBM Docs may be real competition for Google Docs

At the recently concluded Lotusphere 2012 in Florida, IBM executives gave me an exclusive preview of IBM Docs —  a new product in the IBM SmartCloud for Social Business portfolio. IBM Docs is a new office productivity suite that includes a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software that all work in the cloud. As of now, there is no client or desktop edition of IBM Docs; IBM however continues to offer a client/desktop office productivity suite called LotusLive Symphony. IBM Docs is now in beta and you can experience it or contribute through a community initiative called Lotus Greenhouse (https://greenhouse.lotus.com)  

IBM Docs allows organizations, both inside and outside the firewall, to simultaneously collaborate on word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents in the cloud to improve productivity. Authors will be able to store and share documents in IBM SmartCloud, co-edit documents in real time or assign users sections of the document so they can work privately easing the management of  multiple revisions from multiple authors in team-based documents. But haven’t we seen that in some product before? What’s the differentiator?

During an exclusive preview of IBM Docs, Jeanette Barlow, Product Manager, IBM said, “We are socially enabling the document process. We did not want to build just an editor. We wanted to create a solution that tackled the problems that arise when teams work together and collaborate on documents.”

We observed co-editing in real-time, the ability to assign sections in a document to different people and a more meaningful way to track versions and audit changes attributed to different users. IBM has a strong foothold in the enterprise space and Google Docs (which has been favoured by many organizations) may have some real competition soon! But we’ll have to watch out for IBM’s pricing details, and Google may have an advantage here. Google also has an established enterprise base for its Google Docs offering in India with organizations like India Infoline and Zensar Technologies using it extensively.

The desktop client has a Lotus Symphony codebase which is based on Apache OpenOffice. Barlow informed that IBM will eventually merge the Symphony code back into OpenOffice core. “But we are also building from the ground up, a browser-based Web solution,” said Barlow.

By the end of this year IBM will have both a rich client and also a cloud based solution for office productivity. The latter will be a Web-based solution based on HTML 5, and will not require browser plug-ins. So it would definitely be a draw for enterprises that just need basic editing and do not want to incur huge costs on client licenses. Collaboration and social features would be the big draw! That’s in line with IBM’s theme at Lotusphere 2012 — “Business. Made Social.”

The next big thing: Just in time info

Every few years we have a product or service that is revolutionary and which becomes part of our lifestyle. We had the invention of the steam engine, the motor car, the gramophone, film camera, tape recorder, radio, TV, VHS, the Walkman, Internet, PC, digital camera, mobile phone, digital music player, and now social media (to keep this short I won’t mention other notable inventions in travel and medicine).

So at the start of 2012, everyone’s wondering what’s the next big thing? the next killer app or product?

Human beings are making decisions sub-consciously and consciously all the time. And for this we need accurate, relevant and updated information — in real-time.

The key words here are: “in real-time”.

So I think the next big app would be some kind of news or information subscription services that pushes information from our preferred channels, to our devices (mobiles, TV, Tablets etc).

Suppose you are called to make a presentation with no advanced notice, chances are you’d have little time to research the topic on the Internet.

But if this information can be pushed to your device, and if it is well structured, you could be informed — just in time!

So the next big thing, in my opinion, is just-in-time, real-time and updated information that’s of high relevance to you.

Happy 2011!