Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The corporate iPod?

I have become a huge fan of Google products over the last year or so (especially Google Docs, their free word processing and spreadsheet package). Unlike the hugely expensive products out of Redmond, Washington that have come to dominate so much of our computer lives, Google's software products have simple, elegant, intuitive user interfaces. And they are reliable and powerful.

But I just heard that Google is moving beyond software into selling hardware. The product is called Google Mini and like Apple's hugely successful iPod it endeavors to be a product where the hardware and the software are intimately integrated with one another (that is, you buy an iPod neither because it is the best hardware value or because it has the best software; you buy it because its combination of those two things is the best _and_ because the combined package works right out of the box without your having to read complicated manuals or pay somebody to help you).

The Google Mini, however, is not about music. It's about search. That is, giving a company of any size a robust way of offering its employees or customers ways of searching through its data without having to hire a small army of network technicians to set it up and maintain it. I think it's very exciting.

So, you ask, why would a rabbi or chaplain care about such things? Is this just my old "geek freak" coming out?

The answer is because it's religious and non-profit organizations -- which tend to be small and cash-strapped -- that stand to benefit most from these developments. Google Docs, for example, allows people to seamlessly collaborate in writing things like grant proposals in a way that used to only be possible inside organizations that could afford to spend millions on networks. It's power to the people! And that's always been exciting for an ol' justice lover like me.

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