Wednesday, May 7, 2008

See Data, Feel Data, Touch Data...for free?

Much has already been said about the growth of free alternatives to Microsoft Office - between Google, Zoho and others, the competition leads predictably to questioning the incumbent as well as continued innovation from Redmond.

Meanwhile, Google may also be seeking to make a dent in the area of data visualization. Building on last year's acquisition of Gapminder's Trendanalyzer, Google released a data visualization API, essentially a platform to create interesting displays based on structured data stored in Google Docs.

Initially, there's simply a "cool" factor at work here - "If I could get that salary list, I could post a piles-of-money gadget around the office!" But are there competitive implications? It's interesting that for as many years as it's taken for real on-line competition for Office to emerge, there could be a viable alternative in the much younger data visualization space much sooner.

There are so many questions - What are Google's long-term intentions in this space? Will it be a drag for the leading BI vendors, or will it help popularize the concept and "raise all boats"? Will Google's experience in search engines mean we can expect it to lead the way with unstructured data visualization?

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