The Next Killer App is Today’s Killer App

There are so many times that a bunch of us sit down and talk about what is next … we’ve spent so much time looking at all this web 2.0 stuff that we are ready to look into the future a bit. The problem is that I keep coming back to the same conclusion — the future looks a hell of a lot like today. If you look around at today’s higher education campuses you see a ton of faculty, staff, and students using three apps — Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

At the moment these apps are locked into a desktop environment … one without the real feature that web 2.0 is built on — collaboration. I would also add portability, convenience, and accessibility to that basic tenant, but the collaboration thing is paramount. I teach here and there at PSU and I can tell you that these are the true killer apps on campus. In the web space there are two champs — google and PSU webmail — but these are in the background serving the community in a different way. The Office suite is the thing that we all rely on. But you know what? It is starting to change … people are starting to get the Google Docs fever around here. The last time I taught I introduced my class to Writely (google docs) and I have never seen students react so positively to a technology. When I asked them why, they looked at me like I was an idiot — “we need this” is what they told me.

Made sense given the fact that so many of them are now asked to work in teams. In the old scenario there is a real mess … think about what a pain in the ass it is to have 5 people all working on the same Word document. People adding new sections, sending it around to each other, and trying like mad to merge changes. No wonder they like it.

The more I talk to my friends about this it is clear that the google docs suite will continue to have a major impact on our campus. As with all this stuff, it will take time for it to gain wide adoption. Within the next 18 months I am guessing that our primary stake holders will be clamoring for a local solution to this issue. So, as I look into the future all I see is the current … the big differences are that we’ll be able to connect with others and run it all in our browser. The future looks a lot like today — sorta.

3 thoughts on “The Next Killer App is Today’s Killer App

  1. In most ways you are right, of course. But never underestimate the surprises coming out of left field.

    Before I left Cornell, I stayed there for a couple of months so that I could finish the Mandarin proposal to Apple. Mandarin was a client that provided access to administrative information. In many ways, it explored new ideas on how people could access central administrative systems. That was in 1989. Not long ago in the history of time.

    In 1982, the Web hit full force and made the approach we had taken with Mandarin obsolete overnight. You didn’t need a client on every platform, the Achilles heal of Mandarin and other client/server apps. You could write a single client for the Web using HTML and the browser engine developed at Illinois would do the work of tailoring it for the platform. Nobody saw that coming in 1989, even the folks at CERN who were developing the Web. I doubt that Andressen, who was then an undergraduate at Illinois, saw it. He was just writing a better thing to go cross platform using the World Wide Web developed by CERN.

    I used to ask folks doing corporate IT research what the next wave was. They would chuckle and say something like I sure wish I knew. What I do know is that so far they have always been out of left field. I don’t thing the last ah ha moment has occurred yet.

  2. No, the last next wave is just now coming into focus for me … that may not make a ton of sense, but so many of us are just now realizing the power of the Internet. In my estimation we are just now getting to the real deal of the WWW — building opportunities for conversation.

    That is a driving factor in nearly everything I see online these days from FaceBook to USAToday. Community and collaboration are winning at every turn. Social tools are taking over and it is confusing to me to look at how much of what I do has shifted online. Most of my activity now happens in a browser — and I don’t do a ton of web surfing. Web 1.0 enabled commerce and access across platforms, while web 2.0 is empowering participation in ways I couldn’t have dreamed about 10 years ago.

    What happens after this wave is anyone’s guess, but it is sure fun thinking about it … for my dollar it is even more fun having the opportunity to help create it.

  3. I did a presentation today for Senior Staff Assistants in my college and showed them three tools: Adobe Acrobat for making forms, Doodle for setting up meetings, and Google Docs. I have never had a better reception in a presentation. They said they wanted me to come every month and do it again.

    When you see that audience get that excited about a tool (or tools) it makes me realize the power of Web 2.0.

    I hardly ever use the office suite anymore. Word is the one I use most, but Powerpoint is dead to me (though I do use Keynote). I am sure I could do without MS Office if it disappeared off my HD tomorrow. I am new to the 2.0 party, but I am quickly becoming an convert.

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