article

Instant Collaboration

Posted: 11/2003

Instant Collaboration
New Tools Enable Move from Chat to Conferencing in a
Continuous Call
By Khali Henderson

Business use of instant messaging as
a collaborative tool is on the rise; The Radicati Group Inc. estimates the total
number of corporate IM accounts will exceed 60 million this year and grow to 349
million by 2007. Its no wonder then that conferencing vendors are moving
swiftly to integrate their tools with embedded IM technologies, enabling users
to seamlessly invoke Web and audio conferencing tools from within an IM
session.

In early October, for example, eDial Inc. announced the release of Instant Collaboration System (ICS),
which integrates Web-based IM with a range of telephony and collaboration
features in one user interface on a single softwarebased platform. ICS allows
users in an extended enterprise to initiate an IM chat session and instantly
escalate it to two-party or conference call using their own phones, share
presentations and collaborate on time-sensitive work within a secure browser
environment that is available to anyone, anywhere, even outside the firewall.

Instant messaging is a pervasive form of realtime
communications; it represents a gateway for collaboration, says Jill Smith,
president and CEO of eDial, With ICS, you never have to leave the instant
messaging environment.


Image: eDial’s Instant Collaboration System Interface

While eDial ICS enables voice and document conferencing, it
also can be an on-ramp to thirdparty asynchronous collaboration tools. ICS also
supports a range of IM capabilities without the need for a desktop application
beyond a standard Web browser. Because it is entirely browserbased, it
increases the addressable market, says Smith, who adds it can be used by
traveling employees who often have difficulty tying back into the company VPN.
Further, it enables the tool to mimic any IM interface the user is familiar with
so that from any terminal, it looks and works the same way. Now, anyone who
already has chosen an instant messaging platform can upgrade and extend its use
outside the firewall, Smith says of the browser-based technology.

Similarly, it incorporates other legacy infrastructure,
utilizing an enterprises existing voice and data network hardware and
software. All you need is a browser and we bring your other infrastructure
together, she says.

Presence management, directory-based buddy lists,
multiparty IM and collaboration sessions, as well as detailed session logs are
all available to the end user.

The company is selling the platform to service providers, such
as BT Conferencing Inc.; OEM partners, such as PBX makers; and direct to
enterprises through direct and resale channels. BT Conferencing has a wide
range of customers who view real-time communications as vital to their
businesses, said Robert Moore, CEO, BT Conferencing. We recognize the
importance of strategic alliance with other companies that are offering leading
edge products, and we see this relationship with eDial as a way to more
effectively address the market requirements for dynamic and instant
collaboration solutions.

In another example, Latitude Communications and FaceTime
Communications this summer agreed to jointly develop and market MeetingPlace
IM Gateway, which is based on Latitudes MeetingPlace conferencing solution
and FaceTimes real-time communications platform. It integrates with popular IM networks including AOL, MSN and
Yahoo! Messengers and Lotus Instant Messaging.

MeetingPlace and its IM Gateway are deployed on an enterprises
private data network for security, cost-effectiveness and centralized IT
control. As end users continue to drive the burgeoning growth in instant
messaging and conferencing, enterprises are looking to establish standards and
policies while still supplying their employees with their preferred tools,
said Matt Cain, senior vice president, content and collaboration strategies at
the Meta Group. Deploying these technologies on internal corporate networks
will give IT the control and security they need and integrating these
experiences will allow users to collaborate more easily.

The product, with an average price of $15,000, is to be
generally available in the fourth quarter. A spokesperson for Latitude says the
gateway will be available through direct sales, and likely will be extended to
channel partners already selling MeetingPlace.

In a twist on the theme Spectel, which incorporated IM into
its conferencing tools about six months ago, added short message service (SMS)
integration with the September launch of Spectel MobileConneXion, a platform for
mobile wireless carriers that offers an opportunity to deliver new services into
an installed base of 1.3 billion business and consumer mobile wireless users
worldwide. When deployed, MobileConneXion enables mobile users to launch,
manage and participate in collaborative voice and data conferences from wireless
devices, such as mobile phones, PDAs and laptop computers.

MobileConneXion uses the IM application of choice to determine
who is online, extend an invitation and join a voice and data conference. In
addition, it leverages SMS and IM to dispatch conference reminders and
notifications. Uniquely, an autoreconnect feature automatically joins wireless
callers who have been disconnected inadvertently, due to temporary signal loss,
for example. Further, users can navigate voice conferencing menus hands-free
using speech commands, rather than keypad entries. Wireless Internet enables users to deliver presentations,
share applications and hold whiteboard sessions at any connection speed with
Spectel DataXchange.

As growth in the mobile services market continues to surge,
we are seeing a steadily increasing demand for access to conferencing services
that offer the same rich features available in an office setting, said David Alexander, industry analyst, Frost & Sullivan.
By expanding its applications to enable service providers to effectively
address these user needs, Spectel demonstrates a practical vision to enhancing
the value of conferencing services and continues to differentiate itself in the
market.

Links
BT Conferencing Inc.
eDial Inc. www.edial.com
Frost & Sullivan www.frost.com
Latitude Communications www.latitude.com
Meta Group www.metagroup.com
Spectel www.spectel.com
The Radicati Group Inc. www.radicati.com

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