Conferencing and Collaboration Thrive During Tough Times

Carl Weinschenk

Even when bad things happen-such as the financial meltdown of the past couple of years-some types of businesses thrive. At times, they thrive because of the problems that are occurring. Think of snow shovel sales before a blizzard or plywood sales before a hurricane.


That's what's happening in one small piece of the unified communications sector, at least according to COMM/fusion/UC Strategies analyst Blair Pleasant. She posts at No Jitter that she found it necessary to downgrade her projections for the overall UC market. That's bad news as the category attempts to truly define and establish itself. But one subgroup was upbeat-and it was because of that bad economy. Pleasant says that conferencing and collaboration did well because companies cut travel expenses to the bone (and in some cases beyond).


Indeed, conferencing and collaboration is benefiting in two interrelated but different ways because of the economy. The primary gain is simply that more people use the platforms, which of course generates more revenue. That's simple enough. Within that group are users who wouldn't have given the services a chance if the economy was better. But once they try it, the advantages of having a presumably fruitful face-to-face meeting with a client or co-worker over distance-without the inconvenience, expense and wasted time of travel-become obvious. A strong prospect for post-recession business thus is created. In this way, the recession may have helped the category gain a firmer long-term footing.

The lines between various levels of conferencing and collaboration and how they relate to the bigger world of unified communication are a bit fuzzy, even for those in the field. Collaboration can be accomplished in many ways. One way is a hardware-centric approach. PC World reports that Hewlett-Packard is integrating collaboration-including video, application-sharing and 3-D graphic support-under the SkyRoom brand into several of its work stations.


The theme of the story is that HP claims to have developed technology that offers high-quality audio and video on fairly basic equipment. This, of course, plays well with the theme of conferencing and collaboration being money savers. It also shows how the sector has evolved since the days when telepresence -- rooms that cost an arm and a leg to build and the other arm and leg to run -- were the main play in collaboration and conferencing.

There are other ways to collaborate. eWEEK, in a very helpful graphical feature, offers its advice on the top 10 collaboration systems to consider. There seems to be an interesting mix of established and new companies. The list includes Microsoft SharePoint, IBM Lotus Connections, Cisco WebEx Connect, Google Apps, Zoho Apps, Adobe, MindText, Socialtouch, Jive Software and Zimbra Collaboration Suite. A much more extensive list-and one with a lot more unfamiliar names-is available at Popwuping.

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