E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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GMail and Google Chat – Is It Really Innovation in the Instant Messaging and E-Mail Space?

Ok, there has been lots of hype over the last few hours about the latest so-called innovation from Google regarding its already available integration between GMail and Google Talk, although it will take a few more weeks before it hits the rest of the world, since it is just available in the US apparently. Mind you that just this morning I saw it already available in my GMail account so it may get there eventually before we would have expected. Either way, it is coming if it is not already there. The important thing though is the fact that for the first time we have got a large enterprise putting together two different Internet environments to get the best out of them: Instant Messaging and e-mail and provide a new platform for people to connect, collaborate, share knowledge, exchange information and so forth. Indeed, I have been weblogging about this over at elsua @ ITtoolbox; we have got the unique opportunity to witness how, for the first time, how two of the most frequent activities we all get to carry out first thing in the morning are now walking hand in hand next to each other. I am sure that you would agree with this: the first thing you check in the morning is, perhaps, your e-mail, and then your buddy list to check who is online and who isn’t. Then you wander elsewhere (i.e. RSS Newsfeeds, your weblog(s), etc.).

So it would appear as if Google has done it once again; keeping ahead with the rest of the pack in enabling people to collaborate in a seamless way putting together several of the most important components available on the Internet today to help facilitate those interactions / connections: IM and e-mail. Well, I am afraid to disappoint a few folks, but this time around Google is not the first one of the pack in this, potentially crucial, collaborative space. And that is why I wanted to create this weblog post because apparently people seem to be forgetting things as they happen. And for quite some time ago.

Indeed, quite a few years ago, there was a company, IBM, who decided that this same integration of e-mail and Instant Messaging may have proved to be very beneficial in order to provide some new ground for people to expand their borders and help them collaborate much closer and perhaps much more effectively. So a bunch of IBMers decided to get working on a new product that over time, and throughout the years, has matured to be one of those indispensable tools for those of us who get to enjoy it during the course of the day. Indeed, Notesbuddy was born over five years ago to provide us, knowledge workers, with the possibility of collaborating much closer not only making use of e-mail but also IM. Since then lots of things have happened with this particular e-mail/IM client but overall it has kept true in nature to itself by allowing its end-users to make extensive use of the different e-mail and IM capabilities. Pretty much you are able to do the same stuff that you will be able to go with Google Talk and GMail, except that with Notesbuddy you have got the opportunity of integrating it with other tools, i.e. Lotus Notes, POP mail, etc. But you would be able to see your contacts online, your e-mails, your groups and so forth and still be able to collaborate with them in a seamless, yet very powerful way, since the memory foot print is almost non existent.

I know that many folks out there would say that Notesbuddy actually requires a license after the 90 days of trial but I can honestly say that is time more than enough for anybody to evaluate if it would be a worth while option for yourself or not to continue making use of it. The key message here though is that innovation in this particular space has already taken place and people seem to be quite content with the results so far (As can be seen over at the Notesbuddy reviews). But don’t worry, innovation does not stop there. With the upcoming release of Lotus Sametime 7.5, which I have mentioned elsewhere, we will be able to see where we would be taking things further. Based on some common features put together from both Notesbuddy and IBM Community Tools (Perhaps I will talk some more in a separate weblog post about this awesome piece of software), Lotus Sametime 7.5 will eventually be able to connect not only with other Sametime end-users but also with AOL, Yahoo! and even Google Talk end-users, all of that at the same time and from a single IM client, as has been described all over the place in different media.

Thus here we go, perhaps witnessing for the first time an interesting global IM interoperability with some of the major IM players out there and still keeping in mind that integrating all of that with your e-mail is a good thing. Actually, it is a very good thing !

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  1. The other interesting attribute here is that all the users woke up this morning with the brand new capability in the tool. No one had to (explicitly) download a new version of anything. No administrator had to bundle up or schedule overnight patches or updates. No users had to request anything nor click on a link to update nor uninstall any old version. It was Just There. Imagine how this works for your world-wide follow-the-sun collaborative team. They wake up and get the newest version of the application. Pretty slick.

    Yes, yes, I recognize that AJAX and server-side applications are part of the magic, but don’t let that cause you to overlook the beauty of the user experience for this upgrade. Pretty slick.

  2. Hi Andy ! Thanks a lot for the feedback ! Excellent input ! Yes, indeed, that might as well be a very good point in the sense that end-users wouldn’t need to worry about anything since it is all done by and for them. But how about the very old discussion of giving the power to the end-users to decide if they would want to upgrade or not? How many times things have gone wrong with multiple applications when upgrading themselves without end-user intervention and things start going totally wrong, but since they cannot interact with them they no longer have a working application. However, that same scenario and with that manual option to upgrade in place people would be able to decide what they would want to do, whether they feel is right or not for them to upgrade.

    I think that at the end of the day it is all about choice. I am one of those folks that while I agree that it is a neat future having those seamless upgrades I still prefer to have the choice to upgrade or not. I still like I want to have control of the applications and tools that I run in my machine, so to me, although realising and agreeing that it is pretty slick and all it doesn’t allow me to have any say in my computing experience. And I am not sure I like that. What do you think ? Are we creating more “dumber” users by the minute? Is it really worth while?

  3. Maybe I’ve fallen into a trap – perhaps the constant stream of patches and fixes has trained me to a constant and unthinking acceptance of updates. Don’t people just automatically accept updates? I’m sure you’ve experienced the workplace equivalent – notification that it is now time for everyone to update to Notes 7, for example. When gmail comes out with new features, I unthinkingly go with the flow. Don’t you?

  4. Andy, I do not think that you may have fallen into a trap. I just think that not everyone goes ahead and accepts all updates / upgrades. I am, for sure, not one of them. I always like to see what I am about to get updated so that I am given the choice if I would want to go that path or not. That way, if I am not happy with it I can just stop the update there and continue working with the tool(s) as is. The example you provide regarding Notes 7 will not be of much help to me since I have been using it already when the pilots got first started and have been running it ever since. Yes, I know, that is what it takes to be an early adopter of new tools. However, even early adopters like to see what has been installed in their machines, because no matter how transparent that upgrade may be I still want to know what it is, so that I am conscious of what I have and don’t have and can act accordingly.

    When GMail comes out with new features, I must say that I am going with the flow, indeed, like everyone else, but I would love to be able to get notified of those changes. Right now, we do not have a choice and get updated regardless and sometimes it is better to let people know than to keep them in the dark. However, and with all that said I can imagine that for people who may not be that tech savvy applying upgrades in such a way is a painless process, but please do give us the choice !

  5. For those folks interested, one of my fellow IBM colleagues just pointed me earlier on today to a weblog post around the same subject where Richard Schwartz expands further on the implications of the so-called innovation Google has done so far, if you could call that innovation, that is. The title of the weblog post is Who Innovates? and it is surely an interesting read to say the least. I wasn’t aware, for instance, about this particular paragraph:

    “In fact, Google’s core search engine business has been built on concepts that came from IBM! Here’s a research paper on Authoritative Sources In a Hyperlinked Environment. It’s based on a research project at IBM called “Clever”, and if you check the footnotes at the bottom of the first page you’ll see that it was initially published as “IBM Research Report RJ 10076” in May 1997 — that’s before Google was founded. An article about the project was published in Scientific American in 1999. I can’t get a link to it on the SciAm site, but one of the authors seems to have it posted on his web site at Cornell.”

    Fascinating, eh? Who would have thought that Google’s primary, and core, business was not something they got started themselves but someone else, whoever that was? I think that it clearly puts things into perspective and from here I just want to thank Richard for the linkback and for adding some more into the conversation. Excellent stuff ! Thanks !

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