Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Macworld Boston -- Still Disappointing, But Less So
An interesting product shown was at ThinkFree. The company was one of those overfunded Internet companies from long ago that has survived in smaller form. They have a decent office suite for those who don't need exotic bells & whistles. It has superb compatibility with MS Office. They have a product that allows putting Powerpoint presentations on iPods or other MP3 players and you can then hook the iPod to a projector. The release is at http://www.thinkfree.com/whatsnew_con.jsp?seq=120
They also have an on-line version of their suite that allows you to work on files online and save them in a free secure 30mb space on their servers. You don't even need to have office suite software on your computer. (they tried this before, but without broadband it really stinks; broadband changes everything, and here's another case of it). It has a feature to post live documents as part of your blog as well, and I'll use it here sometime soon (I experimented, didn't like the results, but it was the settings I chose). The suite is just $49 but you get a 30-day free trial by downloading. You can use the online service for free-- just sign up for a free account at http://online.thinkfree.com/index.jsp. There are some Internet software discounters selling ThinkFree for $10-15; beware... it's version 2.3 and not the latest version.
The on-line version of the company was the original intent with the "ASP" craze how no one would have software but use browsers for everything. The investors would get rich from banner ads that would be up as people were using the elements of the suites. That thinking is so '90s. :)) It's not their thinking now; they'll use the online version to sell suites and sell upgrades to greater server space, and other products and services, etc. Their press kit was a bit disappointing, showing examples of how well it handles MS Office files, but then dumping on OpenOffice with examples of bad conversions by that product. I've been using the beta of OpenOffice 2.0 and it's been great: the presentation program is greatly improved. I'm considering switching totally to it when it is released as StarOffice 8.0. I thought ThinkFree's positioning against OpenOffice was interesting. Since the company is Asian in ownership, they see far more Linux and open source software, of which OpenOffice has emerged as the most important full-featured suite, having far greater penetration than in the U.S, or Europe. This doesn't mean I won't buy ThinkFree, which I will, because as a software geek I buy everything and find all kinds of little things that some products do better than others (like this blog feature in TF3.0). But the shots at OpenOffice are done without recognizing OO features that TF doesn't have.
Download the latest OpenOffice beta at http://download.openoffice.org/680/index.html
The keynoter on Tuesday was columnist Andy Ihnatko. I had never heard of him, so obviously I never heard him speak. He was superb. His Chicago Sun-Times columns can be accessed at http://www.suntimes.com/index/worktech.html and his blog is at http://www.cwob.com/yellowtext/
All in all, despite being a PC user, I survived, and no one suspected that I was not one of the Mac-ians. Last year's show was a disaster, but this was far better run in a more appropriate location. Maybe, one day, Apple will come back and exhibit.
Last year I went undercover by wearing a t-shirt that said "Macintosh for Productivity, Palm for Mobility, Linux for Development, and Windows for Solitaire." Always a hit with the crowd. I got stopped a few times in Busch Gardens in Williamsburg a few years ago with people who wanted to take pictures of it. Got it at MacWorld NY 2001, and I forgot what vendor it was. I didn't see it at the show. Strangely, it was funny how much stuff at Macworld works on Windows, and how often I saw the word "Linux" there.