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Monday, December 03, 2007

Google's future online apps

A Google executive recently let out previously unknown information about upcoming changes to the company's Google Apps suite of productivity and communication tools.

The executive, Scott Johnston, is former VP of Product Development at JotSpot. Google acquired JotSpot, a Wiki collaboration company, just over a year ago. Miller was speaking at a small business meeting at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Changes to Google Apps were summarized by blogger Andrew Miller, who was present at the meeting. Miller wrote:

"Google Sites: Scheduled to be launched sometime next year (2008), Google Sites will expand upon the Google Page Creator already offered within Apps. Based on JotSpot collaboration tools, Sites will allow business to set up intranets, project management tracking, customer extranets, and any number of custom sites based on multi-user collaboration. [UPDATE] I don’t recall wikis being mentioned specifically but I assume they are part of the plan.

Will users be able to edit docs, spreadsheets and presentation offline? Scott’s answer was yes, and that the Google Gears plugin would handle the offline work. In addition, Google Gears support is in the works for Gmail and Google Calendar.
What happens when somebody edits a document offline at the same time another user is editing the online version? The same algorithm that reconciles simultaneous editing will apply here when the offline version is merged back into the online version. Changes will be versioned the same way, so basically in chronological order.

Will Google docs have OCR capabilities for importing .pdfs or other graphical files? Not yet, but perhaps someday. Scott couldn’t comment on the “roadmap” for future enhancements. However, the collaborative Google Sites (based on JotSpot) will allow for upload and storage of any file type.

Will GrandCentral be integrated into Google Apps? If so, when? Again, Scott didn’t comment on the timing but said they are working on it and it is a “huge priority” for them.

Will Google Spreadsheets ever have advanced features like pivot tables, macros or offline database integrations? (This was actually my question) Scott said they are constantly trying to find the balance between speed and utility. It will never be a heavy duty analytics program because that would be too heavy and bulky for the average user.

Will Google Apps support video conferencing in addition to Google Talk and Chat? Scott’s answer, “Not yet”. I got the impression from his body language that it’ll come someday, but nothing more was said."
This is all great news. Google Apps is already superior for extreme telecommuters than Office. These changes should make it even better.

Mike Elgan
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