Screen sharing is a feature, not a collaboration service. Skype has left the door open for all its developer partners to continue to build their businesses with Skype embedded into their offering, especially when it comes to fully featured collaboration services.
When you come from a technical background it’s easy to confuse features with a complete business offering. For instance, “screen sharing” or “desktop sharing” is a feature appearing in many Web 2.0 offerings. But a full collaboration offering for a business environment involves bringing together several features that bring a significant ROI to the customers.
Just to recall my own career history, working with Quarterdeck we did have some “utility” products that initially generated revenues of up to $50MM per year. But eventually they became features within a larger business offering – in this case the operating system itself. Memory management and multi-tasking were not always easy sells but had a market at the time. Today these features are hidden within Windows. It took Microsoft about six versions of Windows to get multi-tasking and memory management right. We also had the same experience developing a web browser; Microsoft eventually incorporate web browsing into the operating system as a feature.
I have also been close to the collaboration market for many years. In fact Webex is an outgrowth of a whiteboarding service that Quarterdeck had acquired. When Quarterdeck evaporated (was sold to Symantec for remnants of software intellectual property), the team with whiteboarding experience went on to found Webex. Recently acquired by Cisco, Webex is now a major player in large enterprise collaboration activities, including desktop or screen sharing. It requires an entirely different underlying robust and scalable infrastructure to meet large and medium enterprise collaboration needs
Yesterday Skype added a screen sharing feature to Skype for Mac. We can expect it to show up in Skype for Windows in the near future. But, as I mentioned in my post about Skype for Mac, it is a feature, not a full collaboration environment. There are several Skype Partners who offer a full business collaboration environment; they are not threatened by Skype’s screen sharing feature. In fact, they may make Skype users more aware of desktop sharing and start looking for a more complete collaboration environment.
What is in a fully featured collaboration environment?
- A common feature for all is that they support real time collaboration sessions for as many as 500 participants. That’s not going to happen in any basic Skype client.
- Secondly Skype for Mac’s screen sharing involves turning the user’s desktop into a virtual webcam that goes through the Skype video channel. In other words you can do screen sharing or Skype video calling but not both concurrently. With the offerings mentioned below, the desktop sharing and other collaboration activity is via TCP/IP channels that are independent of the Skype video channel.
- Take the recently launched InnerPass Skype Extra “Share and Collaborate, Communicate“. Here is an enterprise document management company that has found a way to add Skype features that ride on top of their document management infrastructure. That infrastructure supports engineering drawings, FDA records, and business contracts amongst other document-intensive, mission critical documentation. As a result they have developed a Skype Extra that creates persistent “document rooms” which business teams may access for real time conferencing sessions. But the documents rooms can be accessed by individual team members between these team conferencing sessions. Version tracking is an important feature here. (A more detailed post on InnerPass’s offering is coming soon.)
- Yugma provides the ability to collaborate across Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. There are session moderator features to switch presenter, start and stop recording, manage participants’ role as active or passive, etc. It’s a complete collaboration environment where the voice channel could be Skype’s multi-party calling or, for more robust voice conferencing, use HiDef Conferencing.
- Lotus Sametime Unyte has been the poster child for an entrepreneurial Skype partner. Now within the IBM fold, it is being targeted to IBM’s enterprise customers within a larger role of collaboration that was pioneered by Lotus Notes.
No, Skype is not going after Webex or Yugma’s or InnerPass’s or the Lotus Sametime markets. Skype’s screen sharing is another feature that’s a peer with file sharing, video calling, IM/chat or SMS messaging. It’s a person-to-person calling complement; it’s not for highly robust, readily scalable business grade collaboration services.
Phil, I’m sorry but Skype for Mac’s screen sharing, to which I had access about a week before yesterday’s announcement, is a feature not a collaboration service. Let my repeat my statement in my initial post on Skype for Mac:
Skype for Mac’s screen sharing feature is sufficient to support discussion issues as a complement to a voice and/or chat conversation; it is NOT by any means a replacement for fully featured desktop or application sharing offerings such as Yugma, Inner Pass or IBM’s Lotus Sametime Unyte. It’s “just” screen sharing. In fact, it is one of two options on the Skype for Mac’s “Share” button, the other being file sharing/transfer.
Bottom line: There are lots of opportunities for independent developers who want to develop a complete offering that makes an independent business.
Update: Alec Saunders, who as Microsoft’s original Internet Explorer product manager, led the effort to make MSIE a feature within the operating system – and effectively killed Quarterdeck’s web browser, has his comments on this situation. Bottom line here is that Inner Pass and IBM are embedding Skype into other services they already offer.