Mitch Kapor on Chandler

Writes Mitch Kapor on his “interpersonal information manager” codenamed Chandler:

We are trying to level the playing field by giving small & medium organizations collaborative tools which are as good as what large companies have had. We think we can do this in a way which doesn’t have the administrative burden of Notes or Exchange. We’re trying to be faithful to the original spirit of the personal computer — empowerment through decentralization.

If Chandler gets initial traction, then perhaps with another turn of the wheel it will grow up, much as Linux did over the course of quite a few years to become an enterprise-class product. So, in this sense, it’s a potential long-term threat, just as Linux emerged as competition for Microsoft in the server market. If I were Microsoft, I’d be worried about open source in general, not about losing Outlook/Exchange market share any time soon. With or without OSAF, I believe all of the applications in Office will be commoditized with equivalent free versions. I can see it happening . It’s not quite there yet but I bet it will be. I’m imagining there are teams of programs around the world working on this at this very moment. In a few years generic PC’s will come with a free, competent office suite bundled. That will challenge Microsoft’s hegemony in desktop applications.

A design note:

Chandler will represent chunks of information as items, much as Agenda did. An item may consist of an email, an appointment, a contact. It can also be a document. An item can be thought of us having a body and a set of attributes (or meta-data).

Views are formed (logically) by specifying a query and running that query against the repository of all items. As in Agenda, an item can appear in more than one view. This is the underlying mechanism by which we will do the equivalent of “virtual folders”.

Views can be of a single item type, e.g., email, or than can be of mixed types, e.g., all items relating to a single subject, regardless of whether they are emails, attachments, contacts, or appointments.

Every item in the system will have a unique URI, so it is referenceable, both from the user’s own machine and remotely.

Items can be linked in arbitrary ways as well.

Whereas Agenda was limited to a single hierarchy of categories (equivalent to attributes), in Chandler we are using an RDF-compliant schema as the backbone. It will come with a basic schema for PIM’s and it will be extensible, although we are still thinking about how extensible it will be, e.g., in terms of interoperability between different schemas.

Adds Nick Denton: “Outlook is the one piece of software, apart from an internet browser, I can’t do without. But it’s a painful dependence: the data file, full of email and contact details, is so huge that I can’t even back it up onto CD; when I last had a hard drive problem, the entire file was unrecoverable; and searching within Outlook is ludicrously slow. Microsoft is highly vulnerable in personal information management. The lock it has on wordprocessing and spreadsheets is to do with users’ need to exchange files; compatibility is everything; and users won’t go on a limb by trying new software. That protection does not apply to Microsoft Outlook.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.