Tubes establishes direct links between two or more computers; Adesso calls them instant personal sharing networks.
The Internet "is not a big truck," Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens famously proclaimed last summer in a speech about network neutrality. "It's a series of tubes."
Though widely ridiculed for the metaphor, Stevens may get the last laugh: Adesso Systems on Tuesday plans to update the current beta release of its Tubes social file sharing application, software that has the potential to significantly alter the way people use and monetize the Internet.
Tubes, explains marketing VP Steve Chazin, is named and modeled on the pneumatic tube systems that used to be used by banks, among other businesses, to transport paper documents from one place to another.
The software manifestation of such systems duplicates the function of the physical version: Tubes establishes direct links between two or more computers. Adesso calls them instant personal sharing networks.
If that sounds like a glorified File Transfer Protocol application, it is and it isn't. It's as much an FTP application as Apple's iPhone is just another phone.
The genius of Tubes is that it combines file sharing, RSS-style syndication, instant messaging, and social networking, supported by an infrastructure that will soon allow one-to-one, not to mention one-to-many, file selling and advertising.
"I want to give the power to people so they can monetize the Internet rather than some aggregator," Chazin says.
Tubes gives people that power by taking it away from the Web browser and all the Web sites like YouTube that derive their market power from their ability to aggregate content. No longer must all roads lead to a Web service; computers can connect directly to each other with Tubes.
Or perhaps it's fairer to say that Adesso plans to give people that power as the company's release schedule catches up with its ambitions.
Adesso began life offering file synchronization and management software for businesses. Last year, the company shifted gears and committed itself to the consumer market, a move that reflects the ongoing exodus of innovation from enterprise to consumer software development.
"Being in the enterprise space, you're left with the scraps of what SAP, IBM, and Oracle leave you," Chazin explains. Calling the enterprise buying cycle "glacial," he adds, "We wanted to innovate rapidly."
That may sound odd coming from a firm run by executives from IBM, Interwoven, and Perot Systems -- Chazin, who used to work for Apple, appears to have the most experience with a consumer-oriented company -- but it nonetheless reflects the reality of software development today: Write software that people actually enjoy and they'll use it both at home and at work, in spite of IT dictums to the contrary.
And Tubes is fundamentally useful for any computer user in that it can replicate and synchronize your files across multiple devices. It enables easy, automated backup, as well as workgroup collaboration. It accomplishes what Google offers by moving files and applications online -- access from any Internet-connected machine -- but it does so by preserving the desktop computing model, where everything is local.
While other applications like Groove and Windows Live's FolderShare offer some functional overlap, they're not quite the same. "Unlike Groove, which is an 'environment' much like Notes, Tubes works alongside everything you already use -- Word, PowerPoint, Firefox, even the folders on your desktop," says Chazin. "Once you've set up a private network -- simply by sending e-mail invites -- just drop and go. The files or documents are distributed to everyone in the group with the correct permissions applied. "
"FolderShare is just a simple way to keep one folder on one computer current with another folder on another computer," adds Chazin. "It doesn't have a user interface, it's hard to know what has changed or why, there is no way to request updates or just pick what you want ... and it requires both computers to be on to sync."
What will make Tubes more than a compelling way to share and back up files is its promised utility as a monetization framework. Imagine iTunes as a social network, without Apple's arguably benevolent dictatorship. Companies or individuals selling audio files, for example, could invite potential customers to a paid subscription or ad-supported Tube, which might or might not use the built-in permission controls.
For those who have built up online content portals to collect the toll, Tubes may eventually mean fewer people venturing through the browser-based door. But given how much development on Tubes remains to be done, Adesso has a lot to prove in the coming months.
Tubes Beta version 4, which is already available but was officially announced Tuesday, adds Microsoft Windows Vista compatibility, along with a variety of improvements to the way the software works and its interface. Adesso plans to release a version that works with Apple's Macintosh computers in about 60 days.
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