September 11th, 2007 | Published in Google Enterprise
This past week I attended the Office 2.0 conference, organized by It|Redux, for the second year in a row. Last year was a special year for me and the Docs & Spreadsheets team. We publicly launched the combined product—the Spreadsheets product in Google Labs came together with the Writely product we had acquired earlier that year. We’ve spent the last 11 months improving the product with great feedback from users, who are a combination of consumers and business groups. It’s hard to believe that the Docs & Spreadsheets product hasn’t even hit its first birthday yet.
That’s the main thing that struck me about this conference—it’s a quickly evolving space that is maturing beyond its precise chronology, like a precocious kid whose parents say, “She is four, going on 16.” That’s what web-based applications seem like. We feel the “watch this trick” excitement, but with high expectations and the anticipation of a fast-moving development cycle. In fact, during the “Death of the App” panel, in which our own Rajen Sheth participated, one attendee asked whether the space will cool off as the novelty of the technology diminishes. Ramana Rao of iCurrent responded matter-of-factly with, “The coolness is already gone"—which to me holds some truth. It certainly seems that businesses now expect the interaction and accessibility of the web in any new business app they procure—they aren’t enticed by just the "wow" factor any longer.
From left: Frank Zamani, Rajen Sheth, Ramana Rao, Greg Olsen, Danny Kolke, Mark Bagley, MC Greg Ruff
In that same session, Dan Farber asked the panel why there was so much optimism and confidence when all this activity “isn’t even a blip on [the] competitive radar yet.” The panelists had some good answers. My answer goes something like this: In any technology shift, there is opportunity for new ideas and new winners. The potential and reward for small, creative teams to build products and, hopefully, successful businesses, is thankfully greater than the fear of losing to the status quo or reliance on business-as-usual. That’s why this conference is so interesting—even as the space matures, there are still plenty of great ideas coming from new players.
Thanks to all of you who remind me that inertia and fear of change never bring improvements, and that the best ideas come from the optimistic and energetic pursuit of something better.