Newton's next chapter
GCN Insider | Trends & technologies that affect the way government does IT
Second acts for IT visionaries are rare. Sure, Steve Jobs is living large again over at Apple Computer Inc., but what has Ethernet inventor Robert Metcalfe been up to of late? How about Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen? All doing noble work, no doubt, but, hey, they're not exactly banging the big bass drum in the ceaseless parade of new IT paradigms. Now John Newton is hoping to command center stage in the document management arena again.
Newton, in case you're not ensconced in the world of enterprise content management systems, cofounded Documentum
, now owned by EMC Corp.
of Hopkinton, Mass. He thought about widescale electronic content management back when most of us still saved WordPerfect documents on big floppy disks.
Now he's chief technical officer of a new ECM company, Alfresco Software Inc.
of Berkshire, United Kingdom. When we caught up with Newton at the AIIM content management conference in Philadelphia, we had to ask, 'What does Alfresco's product offer that other products miss?' Ease of use was his answer. Newton describes Alfresco's Enterprise Network
application as 'ECM for people who do not want to use ECM.' Unlike most ECM systems, Enterprise Network stays in the background, unnoticed by users.
Technically speaking, Enterprise Network is basically Java software that mimics a shared-file drive. Users save files on the repository as they normally would, and administrators set up rules on how to handle those documents. A document can trigger a workflow process, be turned into PDF, watermarked, annotated with metadata or run through security checks. 'You could put rules on any folder inside the repository,' Newton said.
When the company first posted the open-source software, 'we expected to get 10,000 downloads,' he said. They underestimated. Now over 250,000 copies have been downloaded. Perhaps Newton is on to something'again.
Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.