GAFYD: What’s A Developer to Do?

By Terry Calhoun

Are you hooked into all the new Google beta stuff? Starting next week, organizations can offer staff, students, customers, employees, or whomever access to chat, calendar, Web page publishing, and Web-based e-mail. It’s called Google Apps for Your Domain (beta), also known as GAFYD or just “Google Apps,” and it is an enhancement to Gmail for Your Domain, launched last February.

Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google’s enterprise business says that hundreds of universities are on board, there are hundreds of thousands of users, and it is set up and running now on tens of thousands of domains. Sigh. So many more new things to learn.

I wonder how much more will be in the premium edition ($$) slated to be offered next year? I also wonder how much it will cost. Special note: Google says that your organization will never have to pay a fee for users who sign up in beta, before it decides what fees it is going to charge!

I am somewhat disappointed. This is not the long-promised “GoogleOffice” app, and I have to wonder if this is being given to us to allow some delay in the development of that, or if this will become GoogleOffice as things like Writely get added.

Yeah, there is a lot of good stuff in Google Apps for Your Domain, but I wanted to see Writely in there, too, as well as Google Spreadsheets. I’ve used something like Writely (Writeboard) and enjoyed it very much. And, do you think Google developers somewhere are working on a slide show killer app? I hope so!

Here’s the best short description I have seen so far:

That look, while hosted by Google, will be accessed at the Internet domains of businesses, universities, and organisations that sign up for it. All of the suite applications will have a user interface based on AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML) and be branded for individual organisations, with the same logos and colour schemes used at the domain. While the email will be Gmail, it will remain a domain address.

And the best long, and sometimes critical discussion I have seen is here.

Google’s main competitor here, Microsoft, is planning to offer access to a similar package of Web apps soon. No doubt we will all benefit from the competition, even if we choose the loser.

Is there no work left for IT developers on campus to do in this area? The implications for IT staffing and costs on campus are not clear, but it is clear that there will be implications. And there probably will be lots of adoption on campuses. Unlike hosted applications from vendors without much known history, who might be bought out or go under, many of us look at Google and see those billions of dollars and figure it’s going to be around for a while. And a bonus with Google is that pages hosted on Google are likely to be indexed in Google a little bit faster.

The same concerns about relying on a single large vendor (Blackboard redux) apply, of course, but it appears from conversations I have had with administrators on several campuses that they’re more comfortable with Google than with Blackboard. Especially given Blackboard’s new patents which many feel have overstepped appropriate boundaries.

I can’t help feel a bit giddy – like we’ve taken one step too many and we’re starting to slide down the glacier at speed: More new things coming soon, and faster. Even as a user, how will I find time to keep up? Sigh. Maybe more of our IT staff will become facilitators or trainers.

Seriously, folks, think of us as users: How can we keep on doing our jobs and still find the time to learn all of these new things? And we still have the threat of Windows Vista hanging over our heads as a future learning curve. Ah, well. Things are definitely not boring.

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