Google Apps in Big Business

I’ve recently started doing a little consultancy for ITV. They efficiently set me up with a computer login and email address so on the first day I found myself logging into a Windows workstation with Outlook for the first time in almost a year. Horrible memories came flooding back. But it wasn’t for long as by day two I’d been migrated to ITV’s new Google Apps (Email, calendar and documents) based system.

This is brilliant news for me as it has meant I can work in their office on my Mac (they are moving to Macs too — everyone is getting new Macbook Airs). What’s even better is it took minutes to hook up my ITV email and calendar up to Sparrow/iCal on my desktop, my iPhone and iPad. All this makes it easy and efficient to manage my ITV communication alongside with my other clients.

I’ve overheard a few teething troubles from people finding the limitations of Google Docs and there’s one Internet Explorer only system which isn’t going to work on the Mac but overall people are liking it. I bet the reduction in IT management will more than offset the cost of the new kit.

I always thought of Google Apps as being a small business thing. Now I can see how much sense it makes for big business too.

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eBook first chapters

I’ve resisted buying an eReader because I don’t read enough books and the fiction I read costs a few quid in a charity shop. I do use eReader apps on my iPad though and I’m finding the free first chapter preview very useful.

I’m not a great reader. I have problems concentrating and remembering all the characters. I can now tell quite quickly if I’m going to find a book easy to read or if I’ll soon lose interest and not enjoy it. So now if I get recommended a book I download the preview chapter and see if it will work for me.

This first chapter preview is going to change publishing. Authors are going to have to make that preview punch hard and pull in buyers. Slow scene-setting will be discouraged. Writers will not like this.

For John Lanchester’s new book Capital a prologue has been released as part of the marketing site. Weirdly I didn’t get a sense of what the novel would be when I read the prologue, I actually thought it was going to be factual book. To me it felt like a movie trailer but without the content of the movie. I wonder if the prologue was specially written to market the book.

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Dropbox and Foursquare’s websites

Dropbox and Foursquare share a common business problem: there’s no reason to reguarly visit their websites. You may wonder why this is important to a business; well, their websites can be a good place to monetise their services. As well as advertising, Dropbox can sell its paid packages, Foursquare its brand partners.

Foursquare added a lot of functionality to its site few months back. You can now get personalised recommendations plotted on a local map. As I rarely need these recommendations where my desktop machine is (at home) it isn’t a great reason for me to visit.

Dropbox recently refreshed its website with an injection of fun (well, a rainbow sharing icon). It has added a powerful search option which is handy but I’d probably still use my desktop one. More interestingly is there’s now a lightbox photo viewer which makes looking back over photos much more engaging. I bet they’ll add a media player next to make it feel more like a digital music locker.

Both are facing an uphill battle to get people to go to their websites more often. Especially as their simple ‘do one thing really well’ is what has made them successful. Doing more things less well will put people off.