by Connie Moore.

A couple of months ago I was Ninged. I opened my email first thing in the morning and there it was . . . an invitation from Mike “Early Bird” Gilpin to participate in a workgroup discussion about dynamic business apps (more on that in a future post). Now Mike is a colleague of mine at Forrester and I tremendously respect his knowledge and experience and intellect. So, of course, I immediately and enthusiastically responded "Yes!"  Not only that, I immediately invited every analyst in my team and some other colleagues to join us.

And then — boom, boom, boom — the emails started stacking up. And then — ding, ding, ding — the instant messages started flying. Erica was having problems getting into Ning. Kyle was having problems.  Matt and Steve were having problems. Rob was having problems. Heck, I was having problems. I can't remember all the details but it went something like this. . . I clicked on the URL that Mike sent in his Ning-generated invitation and the Ning site proceeded to say that I could NOT participate in the discussion until Mike INVITED me. It was crazy. . . of course Mike had invited me because that's how I got the invitation. I can't remember how we got around the problem but it was something like. . . I pretended to be Mike and sent myself another invitation and managed to get in.  And then I told all my colleagues to pretend they were me and invite themselves. . . and somehow, after about an hour of an entire team devoting its productivity to getting into Ning, we were all in. Done — mission accomplished. And there it sits, somewhere out in cyberspace. I haven't gone back and I haven't heard anything else from Ning or from any of the people by way of Ning who joined our so called discussion group that morning. So much for social computing — at least on that subject, using that tool. In the meantime, we've been collaborating away about dynamic business apps using our in-house collaboration tools from Microsoft.

Around the same time, I read a full page article in Business Week (March 12, 2007) about a new software product called Glide from Transmedia. This article by Stephen H. Wildstrom was inspiring and pointed to the brave new world of Web 2.0 where everything happens in the cloud and pretty much stuff is free or next to nothing.  According to this article, Glide has a word processor, photo editor, drawing program, presentation program, blog writing tool, email, calendaring, contacts, chat and file-sharing,  plus it stores music and videos, provides news feeds and has weather information. And the basic program is free up to 300 MB, or dirt cheap at $4.95 per month or $49.95 for a year for 2 GBs of storage. Admittedly, Wildstrom warned readers that the software is in beta and Glide’s vision is greater than its ability "by a fair margin." But still, I was hooked. This sounded like great stuff and I wanted it.

So I asked Erica, Kyle and Rob Koplowitz (we have two Rob K's in our team so I always have to use Rob's last name) about Glide. I figured if I was just learning about it, they were already using it or at least knew a lot more about it than me.

Here's what Erica "Efficiency" Driver said: "I hadn't heard of them so I added them to my product tracking database. They have got to be tiny by the looks of their Web site. It opens new windows with different URLs and it's impossible to get anything except press releases and media quotes there."

Next, Rob "Early Adopter" Koplowitz added: "I registered and played with the apps. There's a lot there, but it's nearly impossible to use. It all seems very fly by night. I'm surprised Business Week did the article."

Then Kyle "The Pragmatist" McNabb chimed in with: "Business Week's happy to present anything that speaks to anti-Microsoft. I won't say there's a conspiracy, but they love the David vs. Goliath angle. I spoke with one of their journalists a few weeks ago, and was published in a recent edition. I mentioned how these tools are not enterprise-ready, more so a milestone in the development of this market. We also discussed how these services also threaten IBM Lotus. The journalist laughed, said he agreed, also mentioned how he's not been able to find corporate users or any CIO that will take these services seriously." 

And then Erica "Ever The Efficient Consultant" Driver finished up with: "I've also had problems with the Google apps, when one of my outside business contacts added me to a list of people who could edit a teleconference agenda in a Google doc or spreadsheet. I wasn't able to get editing access to it and after maybe 15 mins of trying and emailing back and forth with him about it I gave up and sent him my suggested changes via text in email."

If I take our collective experience that morning with Ning and the progress report from my team on Glide, I'd say we have a long way to go before these guys displace IBM and Microsoft.

In fact, the Brits have an expression I just love. Instead of saying a company is a garage shop operation, they go one step further into metaphor land and say, "They’re just two men and a dog." Now I’m not saying Ning = two men and I’m not saying Glide = a dog, but I am saying that a lot of these companies are not going to make it. Or they will be bought by bigger companies that might give them a crack at making it. And maybe one or two of these start ups will miraculously slip through the start up shoals and become the next eBay or You Tube — or more likely, the next Linked In — but I wouldn't bet on it. And I’ll go further. . .  there won't be a giant wiki market that slays Microsoft and IBM Lotus —instead, wikis will get absorbed into collaboration and Information Workplace products. I'm not holding my breath waiting for any of these companies to make it to the big time. They won't. OK, OK — at least 99% of them won't. And I probably won't go back to that Ning collaboration site on dynamic business apps anytime soon. Instead, I'll just hitch my wagon to Butter 2.0. (Just kidding.)