The post-holiday lull has ended, Vista is out the door, so we’re back to a nonstop barrage of new products and services. Here’s what stood out in the last week.

  • Adobe will offer a free online version of Photoshop in a few months. If the service proceeds as planned, it will be a light version of Photoshop (something like Photoshop Elements, perhaps). The current plan is to support the online service with ads instead of charging a fee.
  • PhotoBucket is yet another online service for storing photos and videos – like the rest, it’s free but there are lots of incentives to buy a “premium” account. Adobe will be offering Adobe Remix as a free service to all PhotoBucket members to create videos out of photos with special effects and music. I’ve done projects like this. They’re fun and this looks like it will be easy to figure out; the videos will be in the now-ubiquitous Flash format so you can send links to everybody. But hoo boy, you’ll be astonished at how time-consuming it is to get it right!
  • If you’re looking for an easier way to send people an online slide show of your photos with some special effects, it doesn’t get any easier than Tracking Shot, which has just added more ways to share movies and more options without making anything more complicated. If you can find your photos on your computer, you can make a movie and share it in minutes.
  • Google introduced its line of office applications amidst great fanfare and many earnest articles predicting the death of Microsoft Office. Personally, I don’t expect to talk about it much – Microsoft Office has reached that point where it’s accepted as a cost of doing business, as much as paying an electricity bill. But there’s two potential wedges:
  • There’s still no drop-dead easy way to store documents online and collaborate on them using Word or Excel, which the Google apps presumably handle naturally. (Microsoft believes Sharepoint services are the answer and has built that technology deeply into the Office 2007 apps. Sharepoint has a fierce learning curve and requires steady IT support – I can’t see a way to get it into small businesses.)
  • Office 2007 introduces a new default format for Word to replace the .DOC format. The .DOC format can be restored as the default but it may frustrate people when they send documents that can’t easily be opened by Word 2003 users. If that happens while people are still struggling with the new Ribbon interface for Word and Excel, it might cause some folks to throw up their hands and look for alternatives.
    • Symantec has released Norton 360, its competitor to Windows Live OneCare. CNet says it’s just swell – doesn’t slow down the computer, does all of its jobs with style, and has a fresh minty aroma. CNet’s reviews have also been wrong about a bunch of other things lately. I have an open mind – I plan to give Symantec products another chance, in five or six years, if I have time.
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