Google is a remarkable company. Need proof? Just consider how reliant we are on Google Maps to find our way around the world. That didn't happen by accident. It happened because Google empowered a couple of brothers, Lars and Jens Rasmussen, to open up the developer APIs to the mapping engine.
These same two brothers announced yesterday at Google I/O developer conference a new technology for communication and collaboration. This new collaboration engine unites email, instant messaging, blogs, wikis into a single hosted conversation. Check out the demo here and the announcement here.
These conversations or "Waves" take place inside Safari, Firefox, or Chrome and look like email on steroids. (Lars said that they took the 40-year old model of email and redesigned it for today's Web-based world.) But it's way more than that. With Google Wave, Google has:
Opened a new path to reinvent how we collaborate. You have to see it to understand, but why would you need four products when one Wave will do? It's a new conversational metaphor that will also easily support document-based collaboration.
Put the code base into open source to attract investment. Google will attract the best and brightest developers and development with this move.
If you had asked me three years ago whether the mobile industry would become a free-for-all of innovation and opportunity, I would have been forced to sigh and say, "can't see how -- the carriers don't seem interested in unlocking that potential."
I would certainly have been wrong as Apple has so impressively shown with its iPhone strategy (with first AT&T's and now 100s of carrier's support).
After 21 months in market, it's quite clear that Apple is redefining its third industry: first the computer industry, next the music industry, and now the mobile industry. With 25,000 applications (yes, mostly consumer applications today) available on Apple's private store and a reported 800,000,000 downloads, the iPhone has become a new platform for innovation.
At least one major enterprise vendor -- Cisco -- now treats the iPhone ahead of BlackBerry devices as a tier one device, at least as demonstrated by its WebEx and Cisco Call Manager applications.
A wander through history today with apologies to those looking for punchy bullets.
The Web turns 20 today. Frickin' amazing if you ask me. My 10-year old wonders out loud what we all did before the Internet (by which he means the browser-based world of Club Penguin, Google, Yahoo!, and YouTube). And for the life of me, I can't remember, either.
How did we collaborate? Well, I remember that I wrote lots of letters to friends to stay in touch and was thrilled when someone wrote back (it was too expensive to make long-distance phone calls). My 7th grade buddies and I also wrote away to Pennzoil and STP to ask for stickers to put on our notebooks. I also spent a lot of time in the library (any library anywhere) and in book stores looking for books, magazines, research papers, whatever.
And for sharing information? Copies, copies, copies. I was an early and big fan of the mimeograph machine, stinky beast though it was. We used to sneak into the Physics office in college to get extra blanks in case we messed up when making copies for a seminar. And you had to get there early on seminar day to command a slot in the mimeograph line. (It was a blessed breakthrough when the Xerox machine was installed -- and only a dime a copy!)
And for creating, editing, co-authoring? It was typewriters, paper, and purple pens, folks. And pen and ink for graphics. Ugly stuff, but amazingly it worked. It took days or weeks do a turnaround, though.
It was shocking to me anyway that we already have 34 million Americans working at least occasionally from home today. And that's with broadband to only 56% of US homes. But that's what the data say. And with our Consumer Technographics survey of 61,033 US and Canadian consumers, you can be confident that the numbers are accurate.
But it's even more surprising to run the numbers forward to 2016 and see how many Americans will work from home then: 63 million! We just published our US Telecommuting forecast that shows how an additional 29 million telecommuters will enter the remote workforce. What's going on?
First, broadband pipes to the home, work laptops, and secure VPNs bring the tools that most information workers need right to the kitchen table or bedroom office. And collaboration tools like instant messaging, Web conferencing, team sites, and desktop video conferencing make it ever-easier to stay in touch and contribute to the project.
Second, employees rightfully point out that they will save time in commuting and can get more done for their employers with that time. The benefits of work flexibility and leaving gas in the tank are also real.
This has been long rumored by Google Apps watchers, but we get confirmation today: Google is testing an offline email client. This is a Google Gmail Labs feature, which means that it's really test code for the brave. In fact, the Gmail Labs site helpfully warns that "there's an escape hatch" if a feature breaks.
That said, this is a big deal for Google. (Caveat: I haven't tested it yet, so I'll have to report back once I do). Here's what it means:
I spoke recently with Stephen Cho, the product manager for the new Google Apps Reseller Program. It's quite clear that Google has learned from its Postini reseller program, from partners like Appirio and Cap Gemini, and from Microsoft's Exchange Online reseller program.
First, the details:
Resellers own the customer. That means billing, first line support, the works.This is in distinct contrast to Microsoft's program for Exchange Online, where partners can sell and benefit from the business, but the Exchange customer would write checks to Redmond.
Resellers get 20% margin. That's in the US, anyway. That means $10/user/year. Period. Have you ever seen such price transparency (and low points) in any reseller program? I haven't. The entire term sheet would fit on a 1/3rd of a page.
Enterprises can't be their own reseller. They have to sell to at least someone other than themselves. Otherwise, this would be a simple way for a enterprise to whack 20% off the already low $50/user/year cost.
Google will provide technical admin support if requested. They won't provide end user support. though. That's one of the value-added services that a VAR can provide.
MacWorld held two important announcements for collaboration professionals, especially those interested in multidevice future:
1. Lotus announced that Notes 8.5 is shipping on Macintoshes, specifically on the new Leopard version of OS X. And its open source office productivity suite, Symphony will be available in a few months. Why does this matter? It matters because Lotus has a clear, vigorous multidevice strategy for the tools that make information workers productive. See Ed Brill's post for the IBM point of view.
2. Cisco announced that WebEx Meeting Center is available on iPhones. In fact, you can download it today to your iPhone. While I haven't yet had the chance to put it through its paces, this announcement signals Cisco's commitment to supporting multiple devices. I expect them to continue to roll unified communications apps on mobile phones of every flavor.
Here are some details:
The native iPhone application is freely available at the Apple AppStore or at iTunes.
It doesn't cost any more to attend a meeting over an iPhone. (But the hoster does have to be running the most current version of the WebEx software.)
The first report tackles the issues of cost. It turns out that most companies have no idea what their fully loaded email costs are (and most low-ball the estimates). But once you add in staffing costs; server and desktop software licenses; upgrades and support fees; archiving and filtering costs; mobile support; hardware, storage, and power costs; and financing costs, email's a big ticket item, as much as $36 per user per month for a 15,000 person company offering BlackBerry support.
Some findings from this cost analysis:
A mobile-less information worker can cost $25 per user per month or a whopping $300 per user per year. In a 10,000-person company doing message archiving, that's an annual budget line item of $3 million.
When you compare the fully loaded costs of on-premise email to the cloud-based alternatives, the cloud service wins for many worker segments in companies (or divisions) of 15,000 users or less.
It’s always the short questions that make my job interesting. Like this one.
Gil, do you think companies will cut back on Enterprise Web 2.0 in light of the economy?
First reaction--it depends. I’m an analyst, that’s always our first answer. But what does it depend on? What are all the factors at play and how will this impact your decisions? So, here’s my read of the Enterprise Web 2.0 trends based on many conversations with my clients and vendors. I will focus specifically on wiki and social networking tools used to improve internal collaboration and knowledge sharing. These are gaining momentum and acceptance within the enterprise. (See my TechRadar report for the details on what Forrester sees in scope for Enterprise Web 2.0.)
There will be a slowdown of IT-driven collaboration projects in 2009. But there will be increased interest in business-driven collaboration projects. Why? There is a technology populist movement, and has been for a while. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) typically operate with little IT support and rely upon vendors for collaboration services – nothing new here. But we find that business units in enterprises, especially those in companies with politically weak IT departments, are increasingly behaving like SMBs, and they are going out and provisioning technology on their own. This is a form of institutional Tech Populism.
In our conversations with many information and knowledge management professionals, it's clear that their distributed and multicompany teams need better extranet collaboration tools.
And they feel the problem is only getting worse as companies go virtual, global, distributed, outsourced, green, travel-less, and partnered, thus driving the need for ever-better collaboration tools that work outside the firewall.
Trouble is, the messaging and collaboration services that companies have implemented are designed primarily for internal teams.
For example, it's bloody difficult to set up a secure instant messaging connection with every partner you might want to work with. Such interoperability between IM platforms is technically possible, but operationally nightmarish.
So clever employees do what they must: Use public IM and calendaring services, cobble together conferences from piece parts, and fall back on endless scheduling and sharing emails and voice conferencing. Ugh. Ugly. And scary.
Well, the solution's just around the corner say vendors new and old. After all, many are on the cusp of major product releases that promise much better extranet connections and capabilities:
IBM Bluehouse promises a new extranet collaboration platform.
Google already offers an extranet collaboration toolkit in its Google Apps Premier Edition.
Cisco is adding extranet collaboration capabilities to WebEx.
Microsoft is moving its services into the cloud for easier extranet access.