Enterprise 2.0 Featured Articles

LibreStream: The next funky collaboration tool (or Cisco’s next acquistion)

Must confess I found Oliver Marks’ recent contribution to the ‘social media expert’ debate rather fun Fads vs Business Value: Knowledge Management & Enterprise 2.0. Oliver looks back to the pre bubble burst era when e-learning was all the rage and cockily wryly remarks:

Back then the shiny new idea was that we could share knowledge as never before thanks to the web, and a whole enterprise industry sprung up around ‘elearning’ with ‘learning management systems’ being touted as the cost effective educational source for businesses to enlighten and track employee’s intellectual sophistication.

I found this especially fun as back then I worked in e-learning, most specifically in Cisco EMEA’s E-learning team. Come to the pop and that e-learning team was reformed. Myself and some colleagues were reformed too, as characters and in roles and we formed a new team we dubbed Communicating@Cisco.

The aim of the team was to enhance comms and to save money and one key way we did that was to heavily promote erstwhile e-learning tools such as the virtual classroom as virtual meeting places. Neat scenario was that meeting online and collaborating via the internet saved money on travelling. it was a novel idea then. The technology we used here was PlaceWare, and interestingly Cisco’s future acquisition WebEx was hardly used at all.

What we did use though was Tandberg and a colleague of mine actively touted ‘video conferencing in a box’ with 2 large and rather heavy Tandberg video conferencing units being carted across Europe to various demos. previously video conferencing hadn’t featured much, the fact that the Tandberg units could do it over IP rather than ISDN and were basically portable made them mobile video conferencing devices. Well sort of, they are rather heavy!

Now of course Cisco recently acquired Tandberg, following on from their acquisition of Flip and before that Kiss. All prime video companies! And I thought of these when a colleague in my current role for a big oil company showed me a Librestream Onsight camera. These things are awesome!

To begin with I thought it was a funky battle-hardened camera – all industrial bounce rubber and spark proof high quality camera for an explosive or otherwise hazardous environment – perfect for use in an oil field in Africa or on a rig in the North Sea. And they certainly do meet that spec. But god do they do more.

onsight-devicesThese things have full wifi video conferencing abilities plus VOIP connectivity. They have whitescreen drawing capabilities on the viewer screen too – see a video, scribble on the back and the person at the other end sees that. They even have IP based remote control.

So what we’ve got then is the essence of the virtual classroom in a camera – realtime sharing, synchronous data – voice, video and graphics. Now if Cisco don’t either acquire this company or the technology and put it in a small consumer device, then I’m a monkey’s uncle. Or am I one already, what can the latest Tandbergs do?

n.b put me down for the first rubber flip video conf boxes. Hmm, Cisco still own the iPhone trademark, I wonder if they’ll want it back from Apple when these video phones get released?!

Ctd….Funky video collaboration II

Featured Articles

Who will buy Adobe?

A lot of waffle today on the wires and especially on Twitter about Adobe acquiring Omniture. But I wonder who will acquire Adobe?

This is the Battle of the Cloud. And these are the 3 contenders:

1) Microsoft – ‘we own the software and the operating system’

2) Cisco – ‘we own the network and want that to be the operating system’

3) Google – ‘we own you online and you will be the operating system’

Adobe are small fry in this fray. Who will buy Adobe?

Communications Enterprise 2.0 Film

Forrester: Instant Messaging and Virtual Worlds

A recent report from Forrester on Virtual Worlds asks  “Will Unified Communications Make Virtual Worlds Relevant To Business?” and provides a hedged answer of ‘Yes, But It Won’t Be Overnight‘. The backdrop to the report is a joint venture between IBM and Forterra Systems called Babel Bridge. Babel Bridge joins IBM’s unified communications in the form of their instant messager SameTime with Forterra’s 3D immersive world, OLIVE. Here’s how Forterra describe it:

The integrated solution from IBM and Forterra takes group collaboration productivity to a new level, incorporating not only voice, video, and media, but it adds the important element of a sense of presence and digital identity. (source)

Forrester examine this new solution by comparing it to the current status of 3D worlds and point to 3 key headaches for wider adoption:

  • There are few use cases that appeal to business.
  • The experience lacks key elements to make it immersive.
  • The technology is new and prone to failure.

They then argue that only with a ‘collision’ between the Virtual World and Unified Communications will these be overcome. 3DUC will offer:

  • A collaboration hub for the enterprise.
  • An environment for spontaneous collaboration.
  • A stable platform that conforms to IT department guidelines.
  • A “personal touch” to meetings between disparate groups.

For Forterra this delivers the holy grail of internal comms:

This integration builds stronger relationships, creates more engaging, memorable experiences, and enables faster problem solving and decision making, all while eliminating the need to travel.

Wow! But on whether it will do this though,  I’m not convinced. My reasons are this, why do it in 3D? I can see a fun element of the virtual world and creating a 3D workspace, but what is really gained here, what are the real and demonstrable business benefits beyond the novelty factor of pushing an avatar round a 3D world? The only area I’ve seen it work in well is virtual worlds surrounding conference and exhibitions where it achieves for the short while the event runs quite a satisfying level of customer engagement.

In a past life I watched a lot of European Union money ploughed into virtual world working environments (I even recall 3D tractor factories in the late 1990’s), but I could never see the point. It always struck me, and this was my actual experience too, that is was much harder work to traverse an avatar across a virtual than to click for a file or folder in good old 2D. And more to the point, all of Forrester’s points above can be achieved in ‘flat’ worlds such as Cisco WebEx Connect or Microsoft’s SharePoint. If one is having to do this everyday, then quick and easy, point and click, will always beat the extra work of moving an avatar about.

No doubt the technology will move forward, but while Forrester are excited by the possibility of full UC integration with 3D, they do urge caution and point out it’s not quite there yet. A key factor appears to be ‘immersion’, which makes me further wonder what full immersion might be like. Images of Total Recall come to mind and the P K Dick short story the film was taken from, We Can Remember it for you Wholesale. If it gets that immersive then one might ask, how will we know if we’re in the environment or not?