Can RSS, Sun, Apple challenge MS Office?

Steve Gillmor thinks so:

[RSS] could be as disruptive to personal computing as the digital video recorder has been to television…Generated by Weblog authoring tools such as the pioneering Radio UserLand, RSS feeds were consumed by a growing circle of cross-linking bloggers and a spillover audience from the trade press. But vendors and developers soon saw the opportunity to deliver content directly to the technical audience, and users saw a way to route around the growing inefficiency of e-mail and Web browsing.

Suddenly, the Windows advantage as the essential platform for applications was neutralized. In a pre-RSS world on a ThinkPad, I spent about 40 percent of my time in the browser, an equal amount in my e-mail client, and the rest in Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Now, on the Mac PowerBook, I spend 40 percent of my time in NetNewsWire (the leading Mac RSS reader), 20 percent in Entourage X (the Mac Office mail client), an equal amount in the Safari browser, and the rest in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

With [Apple’s] Safari, browsing is now an operating system service. So are spelling checking, Zip compression and, most important, instant messaging services. iChat AV brings usable videoconferencing to the table, integrating IM presence information with any tool that wants to take advantage of its service.

It’s the combination of these system services that produces the RSS information router. IM presence can be used to signal users that important RSS items are available for immediate downloading, eliminating the latency of 30-minute RSS feed polling while shifting strategic information transfer out of e-mail and into collaborative groups.

Advances in RSS search, offline storage, authenticated feeds, embedded browser rendering and rich authoring tools are in progress, and all kinds of data are yielding to the RSS momentum.

Sure, but as one e-mailer asked me, “Why would developers switch to a platform of only 7 million users?” Perhaps they won’t. But they will take a careful look at a Linux look-alike such as Sun’s Java Desktop System, particularly with its forthcoming Looking Glass user interface and a rumored RSS tool based on Mozilla’s cross-platform browser.

Sun has no problem disrupting Outlook’s market share with a free RSS router, something Microsoft is loath to do. RSS puts users in charge and at a price they can afford: free.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.