Tag Archives: Webex

The quiet arrival of the SharePoint killer

It was with some interest that I read The Forrester Wave™: Collaboration Platforms, Q3 2009 after a link was Tweeted out yesterday. I was reading in reverse order from Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, see my Gartner Magic Quadrant; a dark horse closing up the outside fence… My main interest in Forrester’s was to see where Jive were placed. Of late I’ve been doing a lot of hands-on work with Jive and getting to know the platform in a great amount of detail.

forrester

On reading the wave report, I was struck by one small arrival – a horse of even darker hue,  that of Cisco WebEx Connect as a collaboration platform. Most people are aware of WebEx as a webinar tool and have not used Connect.  I was at Cisco when WebEx was acquired and in San Jose too and remember all the WebEx signs in the carpark. It all looked a bit puzzling, for me at least, until I found out about Connect. Connect is a superb tool and worth acquiring for that alone. It’s a SharePoint killer.

Here’s why. Connect is 2.0 in a way that SharePoint never will be. It’s modular, making it infinitely extendable and uses accessible open APIs:

  • URL commands
  • XML Request / Response interfaces with well-defined schemas
  • Web Services interfaces that support Web Services Definition Language (WSDL) with access through Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).
  • Representational State Transfer (REST).

What this means is a rapidly deployable, file-store and  silo-busting collaboration app with the ability to slot in any number of friendly mash-ups. Twitter for Connect/ no problemo, just load it up and slot it in. Facebook, ditto, iPhone easy. What’s more it’s robustly secure, no worries about the firewall with this baby. And of course it’s backed up by a tech behemoth. This is no start-up.

Potentially, this is the Enterprise 2.0 application.

I say potentially as to be frank I was surprised to see it in the Forrester Wave (and it’s not present in Gartner’s). The product is superb but I’ve never seen it pushed out and really marketed for what it is. Go to the WebEx site (and it’s still on the WebEx domain) and Connect is listed but not featured much. It doesn’t scream out what it does. What’s more, I couldn’t find the link where I might connect up with Connect. Puzzling.

Now if you go onto the Jive site you’ll see a lot of publicity about SharePoint connectivity. All good stuff as SharePoint is almost a defacto standard in many corporations. This could change almost overnight. Here’s how and why.

Cisco, Miscrosoft and Google are in a cage fight. That fight I dubbed The Battle of the Cloud a while back. Cisco own the Network, Miscrosoft the Software and Google own the Experience. All of these 3 areas get completely mashed up in the metaphor we currently know as the cloud. And I believe, the stakes are high enough to see severe casualties amongst the 3 big players. (See also Dion Hinchcliffe’s Cloud computing and the return of the platform wars…estimate is for $42 Billion by 2012, I’m taking the argument even further).

Against this backdrop, singular products like Connect, that many don’t even realise exists, provides some wonderfully disruptive possibilities as a disruptive Enterprise 2.0 collaboration tool. Given this, what I’d do if I was sitting in the board at San Jose would be to ramp up the marketing for Connect. And if I really wanted to shake up the whole apple cart, I’d also make it free.

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?