Monday, 1 September 2008

Office 2.0 – a reality check?

Rachel posted such an interesting comment on her experience of using Office2.0 technologies at the recent Society of Archivist’s conference that I thought it deserved picking up in a separate posting.

Rachel is absolutely right in pointing to how reliant the ‘dream’ of Office2.0 is on the nuts and bolts of technical infrastructure and quite correct that at the moment that infrastructure is not yet sufficiently developed to turn the dream into a reality. However, I suspect the phrase ‘not yet’ is really key here. In response to Rachel’s experiences I think I would offer the following points (aside from a hearty ‘well done’ for the whole experiment!).

The infrastructure is still developing, but developing fast. I know (from bitter experience!) that relying on wifi access for internet access when on the road can still be a very patchy and frustrating experience. But, what I would say is cast your mind back 5 years or so and then compare it with today. Five years ago I couldn’t even get a mainline broadband connection for my rural home. Today, not only do I get a reasonable BB connection, but I actually first read Rachel’s comments on my Blackberry whilst walking the dog round a field this morning…

Similar evidence of progress can be seen around the country, whether it be wifi hotspots in stations and coffee shops or the increasing number of hotels that are now offering connections (including an increasing number providing free access). Of course this isn’t the same as being universal and I suspect that it will be some time – perhaps another 5 years or so – before coverage begins to approach this. But I find it hard to believe that it won’t happen soon – just look at the rise in mobile phone coverage over the past decade.

Incidentally, Rachel may have had more luck with a 3G card than she suspected. I’ve used one for several years now and though not without their own frustrations, do mean that access to the internet is possible pretty much anywhere you can get a mobile signal (at least at GPRS speeds, if not 3G).

It might also be worth checking out the potential of Google’s Gears. I’ve not yet got round to trying it myself, but the logic of a piece of software which enables offline access to services which are normally only available online (including Google Docs and Zoho) would seem a potentially valuable means of plugging this temporary gap as seamlessly as possible.

So, I guess in summary its worth saying that this blog is called ‘futurewatch’ for reason! The reality of the universal, seamless access to the web that is required to fully realise Office2.0 may still be a little way off, but personally I still have no doubts that it is the direction in which we are heading.


Jen Parker said...

I've been using dongles(ie. internet USB sticks) for a year now and recently (Oct 08) upgraded to one that gives speeds up to 7.2 MB, double that of the last one i was using.

They're not a new concept i realise, replacing the old data cards, but speeds and access are definitely improving. I think dongles will really catch on and may even replace the traditional home internet connection, with the autonomy and freedom they offer. They really are wi-fi in the truest sense of the word.

Jen Parker said...

...rather i meant, they really are "wireless" in the truest sense of the word (not wi-fi).

And they can save you from otherwise buying your wi-fi access in coffee shops, hotels etc.

R said...

Washington DC govt is making the leap into the cloud:

(picked up from adravan on twitter)