The Seamless Web
By: Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
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The hype over ubiquitous (or pervasive) computing (computers everywhere) has masked a potentially more momentous development. It is the convergence of computing devices interfaces with web (or other) content. Years ago - after Bill Gates overcame his misplaced scepticism - Microsoft introduced their "internet-ready" applications. Its word processing software ("Word"), other Office applications, and the Windows operating system handle both "local" documents (resident on the user's computer) and web pages smoothly and seamlessly. The transition between the desktop or laptop interfaces and the web is today effortlessly transparent.
The introduction of e-book readers and MP3 players has blurred the anachronistic distinction between hardware and software. Common speech reflects this fact. When we say "e-book", we mean both the device and the content we access on it. As technologies such as digital ink and printable integrated circuits mature - hardware and software will have completed their inevitable merger.
This erasure of boundaries has led to the emergence of knowledge management solutions and personal and shared workspaces. The LOCATION of a document (one's own computer, a colleague's PDA, or a web page) has become irrelevant. The NATURE of the document (e-mail message, text file, video snippet, soundbite) is equally unimportant. The SOURCE of the document (its extension, which tells us on which software it was created and can be read) is increasingly meaningless. Universal languages (such as Java) allow devices and applications to talk to each other. What matters are accessibility and logical and user-friendly work-flows.
Enter Enfish. In its own words, it provides:
"...Personalized portal solution linking personal and corporate knowledge with relevant information from the Internet, ...live-in desktop environment providing co-branding and customization opportunities on and offline, a unique, private communication channel to users that can be used also for eBusiness solutions, ...Knowledge Management solution that requires no user set-up or configuration."
The principle is simple enough - but the experience is liberating (try their online flash demo). Suddenly, instead of juggling dozens of windows, a single interface provides the tortured user (that's I) with access to all his applications: e-mail, contacts, documents, the company's intranet or network, the web and OPC's (other people's computers, other networks, other intranets). There is only a single screen and it is dynamically and automatically updated to respond to the changing information needs of the user.
"The power underlying Enfish Onespace is its patented DEX 'engine.' This technology creates a master, cross-referenced index of the contents of a user's email, documents and Internet information. The Enfish engine then uses this master index as a basis to understand what is relevant to a user, and to provide them with appropriate information. In this manner Enfish Onespace 'personalizes' the Internet for each user, automatically connecting relevant information and services from the Internet with the user's desktop information.
As an example, by clicking on a person or company, Enfish Onespace automatically assembles a page that brings together related emails, documents, contact information, appointments, news and relevant news headlines from the Internet. This is accomplished without the user working to find and organize this information. By having everything in one place and in context, our users are more informed and better prepared to perform tasks such as handling a phone call or preparing for a business meeting. This results in ... benefits in productivity and efficiency."
It is, indeed, addictive. The inevitable advent of transparent computing (smart houses, smart cards, smart clothes, smart appliances, wireless Internet) - coupled with the single GUI (Graphic User Interface) approach can spell revolution in our habits. Information will be available to us anywhere, through an identical screen, communicated instantly and accurately from device to device, from one appliance to another and from one location to the next as we move. The underlying software and hardware will become as arcane and mysterious as are the ASCII and ASSEMBLY languages to the average computer user today. It will be a real partnership of biological and artificial intelligence on the move.
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