Desktop Collaboration: Ten Years Later — The Skype Impact

In February 1996, while with Quarterdeck, I came down to my Mississauga-based office early one morning and participated in a demonstration of Quarterdeck’s nascent remote collaboration tools to a market analyst presentation in London, UK (another participant was in Paris) using a whiteboarding product (which later became core to Webex’s technology), a VoIP offering and IRC chat (this was a year before ICQ introduced IM). Over the past eleven years, the desktop collaboration space, pioneered by Webex, has evolved to the point where, if you can spontaneously download a small client, remote collaboration tools are available for a wide variety of applications from building customer relationships, through remote presentations and customer support, to operating an ongoing, persistent virtual enterprise conference room.

The biggest issue with the early real time collaboration offerings, aside from the widespread availability of an appropriate broadband infrastructure, was getting the voice connection right – both technologically and economically. Until a few years ago, traditional voice conferencing could result in significant phone bills – several hundred dollars for a one hour multi-party conference call, especially when the call involved overseas participants. It was a significant inhibitor to adoption of real time collaboration on a worldwide scale.

Introducing VoIP into the enterprise has significantly reduced those costs. The availability of Skype and its voice conferencing offerings (up to ten participants within Skype or several hundred through Vapps’ has significantly broadened the market for real time collaboration suites to include small-medium enterprises as well as consumer, family and special interest community conferencing. As we shall see in one instance, it also allows Skype to take a role in social networking.

Over the past week I have been evaluating a few desktop collaboration offerings that are being offered within the Skype Extras program. As a heads up my criteria for the evaluation have included:

  • transparency relative to the discussion or meeting agenda

    • ease of setup and operation
    • spontaneity
  • role of desktop sharing as a real time conversation mode
  • emulation of a traditional enterprise conference room
  • platform capability (browsers, OS’s)

With respect to the last item, I use Firefox as my primary browser (IE 7 just gave me too many headaches). But I have installed the IE Tab and IE View Firefox extensions to facilitate interacting with products that require IE features. As an aside, these, along with FirefoxView, are amongst my most frequently used Firefox extensions; highly recommended for more fluid web browsing. Having these extensions installed certainly makes the evaluation much easier to execute.

As the evaluations proceed I will list the products and links here for ready reference.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.


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