The big news tonight is that Google has released a premier edition of its Google Apps package (previously known as Google Apps For Your Domain). I've been following the Web Office trend for a long time and, like everyone, have been particularly obsessed with Google's gradual progression towards a Web Office suite. Tonight is another step towards fully challenging Microsoft Office, but there is still a ways to go. More on that in a minute, but first a quick overview of what's in Google Apps Premier.
The new 'suite' includes the existing Google Apps tools - Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Page Creator and Start Page. New to the package is Google Docs & Spreadsheets, a significant edition considering that word processing and spreadsheets are mainstays of Microsoft Office. A comparison between the free edition and premier is here. Also new of note is APIs "to integrate with your existing infrastructure" and ability to integrate with 3rd party applications and services. 'Best of breed' web apps is another theme we obsess over here at Read/WriteWeb - so APIs and 3rd party features will go a long way towards making Google Office an attraction for external developers and startups. Google wants to be the center of the Web Office ecosystem, a very wise strategy.
For now, I'm a bit more cautious about this news. I see it more as just another step for Google towards a full Office suite. There's still no presentations app, CRM.... or JotSpot for that matter! Google Apps is still a fairly loose package of web-based office apps, not as integrated as it could be yet. The strength of a Web Office suite is collaboration and other web native functionality - whereas desktop office suites have much more sophisticated functionality. There's also the small matter of offline functionality (which is starting to appear in web apps, but slowly) and whether businesses want to host their office with an external party like Google.But the gap is definitely closing, no doubt about it, between Google and Microsoft in office software. I'm waiting with interest on Google's next step - which I'm guessing will involve more integration between their apps, a la something like Basecamp or Central Desktop. I'm also waiting to see some of the new web native features that JotSpot (a Google acquisition last year) had, plus of course missing apps like presentations.
Gmail offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to the way you manage your email. Innovative features like labels, a dedicated mobile phone client and rich script-ability via Firefox's Greasemonkey plugin create a unique appeal for users from nearly all walks of life.
After a year-long public gestation period, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software has attained "gold code" status and will soon be available to the world. Along with Apple's Mac-only<!-- start ziffarticle //--> Aperture<!-- end ziffarticle //-->, the cross-platform Lightroom belongs to a new breed of digital photo software oriented around workflow: the process of getting the photos off your camera, organized, enhanced, and output to the medium of your choice. Lightroom by design works primarily (though not exclusively) with RAW-formatted images, and it certainly qualifies as an exceptionally useful and accomplished piece of software.
If you're one of those who only uses Photoshop for its core photo editing capabilities, and doesn't need the dozens of other graphic arts features or the complex user interface, then Lightroom or one of the new breed of photographer specific editors is just the ticket for you. In this issue of DigitalPro Shooter we'll look at the newly announced Adobe Lightroom and also talk a little about how it compares with Apple's Aperture and LightZone from LightCrafts.
The first big change in Photoshop's editing paradigm since Layers came with the introduction of Camera Raw. Camera Raw allows non-destructive application of some fairly sophisticated image processing directly on the camera's raw data. The obvious question photographers began to ask is why they couldn't have those same powerful functions for use with their JPEGs (like Bibble offers) and in Photoshop itself. Changing Photoshop entirely to address the needs of photographers is impractical, so Adobe has built Lightroom "from the ground up" (their words, not mine) to meet the needs of the serious photographer.
Lightroom Beta 4 also features: