What’s Wrong with SkyDrive?

So here we are in 2010 and Microsoft SkyDrive is still sitting around not doing much. Yes, you can now edit Excel and PowerPoint files online, but Word, the tool that most of the world still has to use, is still unavailable for editing. Also, when you view your Documents folder, you have no option to select multiple files at the same time and perform an action to all of the files at once….in 2010…from the biggest software company ever.

They must be devoting a paltry amount of money and time to this service. Then, there is Office Live Workspace, which offers a better view of files, albeit one that looks like SharePoint in the cloud. Still, there is no ability to edit the document outside of Word on your local PC. What is the deal? Google Docs, which does not have as good an interface as Word, is still able to do all these things and has been for some time.

The issue can’t be ability, because Microsoft has to have the capabilities to do these seemingly simple tasks. Is Microsoft undergoing internal debates about how user-friendly to make these services and thereby taking forever to improve them? After all, who would really want to pay for Office anymore if we have the ability to do everything on SkyDrive, Office Live or some future combination of all these weird services in combination with free stuff like OpenOffice, Adobe Acrobat.com and Google Apps? But that is the future, whether Microsoft fights it or plays along. If they don’t want to make it available, Google will just keep cleaning their clock, even though Google’s interface and icons are corny and cartoonish at this point.

Either way, looking at SkyDrive and all of Windows Live you get the feel of 2004 or so. It looks like no one has thought about it much, it doesn’t work well, it seems poorly designed and it is ugly. Maybe this will all change. I hope so because I’d like to use it more.

Acrobat.com Update

On Friday night, Adobe updated Acrobat.com. The update merged the files of the various services – Buzzword, Presentations, etc. – into a common “desktop” that improves the ability to organize and find files. The services look sleek and I continue to be impressed by the design elements.

What I am not thrilled with in this update is that Buzzword itself has not progressed. It needs the ability to format with styles, caption tables and figures, and other common word processing features. I hope this will happen shortly. If it does, I will stop using Pages and Word altogether and go completely online. The word is that Google is also going to roll a lot of new functions into docs in 2010, so I think next year will truly see the end of needing to use Word/Excel/Powerpoint for office functions. Acrobat’s ability to import and export to .doc and other common formats makes it an almost-perfect office killer. Plus, using Minion and Myriad as default fonts rather than Times New Roman or Constantia is a massive win for geeks like me.

Information Today

According to this post, Google can “can hold an entire copy of the web in memory, all the world’s written information on disk, and still have plenty of room for logs and other data sets.”  Greg says:

A standard Google server appears to have about 16G RAM and 2T of disk. If we assume Google has 500k servers (which seems like a low-end estimate given they used 25.5k machine years of computation in Sept 2009 just on MapReduce jobs), that means they can hold roughly 8 petabytes of data in memory and, after x3 replication, roughly 333 petabytes on disk. For comparison, a large web crawl with history, the Internet Archive, is about 2 petabytes and “the entire [written] works of humankind, from the beginning of recorded history, in all languages” has been estimated at 50 petabytes, so it looks like Google easily can hold an entire copy of the web in memory, all the world’s written information on disk, and still have plenty of room for logs and other data sets. Certainly no shortage of storage at Google.

This morning I chatted via video with my brother in Dubai, this was done via Skype. My daughter talked to his daughter who was literally half the world away. And all this produces a yawn. I can see everything that has ever been written uploaded, searchable, translated, stored and easily retrieved and it will produce boredom in most of the population.

I think there are going to be some huge breakthroughs in medicine, communication, theology and all kinds of other fields in the next century due to this awe-striking mass of information. And yet, talking to my brother on a screen is about as exciting as making toast – the awe-factor is gone in an age jaded by so many astounding breakthroughs. I guess that’s how life always goes.

Google Wave

Related to my last post on information overload, I received a coveted invite to Google Wave today. I have no one to “Wave” with, so it’s essentially a dud right now, but my initial experience with it matches a review I read a week or so ago. The essence of the review was that Wave makes communication even more overwhelming. Not only do you IM people “live”, you see what they are typing and they see what you are typing prior to clicking send.
If you have multiple Waves occurring at the same time, you’ll have messages coming in, documents getting updated, and other things going off all over the place. I don’t see it as very helpful. The only way I think it will work is (like everything else) to use hierarchical authority and drill down when you need to, but that would be old school and Wave can’t be old school.
I think tools like Wave may catch on at the high school/junior high level, but I can’t see it moving into the workplace. Do you know how often people where I work use the (pathetic) asynchronous features of SharePoint? About never. Do people use discussions instead of e-mail? No. Do they work on the same document or mail versions of it around? Generally, the mail it with their name attached to the file as a revision, straight out of 1997. People where I work barely know how to use Word, do you think they’ll catch on to Wave? No way.
The niche I see for this tool is as a college age and younger time waster while doing homework, assuming people DO homework anymore and don’t just use Google to cheat. But what do I know? This might be a huge hit and I just can’t see it right now.