Last week, I attended the Wainhouse Research Collaboration Futures Summit ’09 in Boston. Topics of discussion ranged from collaboration to videoconferencing to synchronous distance learning. Some highlights include:
- A presentation from Sascha Hach of Google, demonstrating the latest collaboration applications in the cloud, including working on a spreadsheet with three people at the same time. Another interesting note: Google’s collaboration applications will be available to businesses for a flat fee of $50 per user per year — an amazing deal for an SMB. Hach invited all users to test out the new applications and pushing them to their limits. “It’s always good to break things so that we can make them better,” he said.
- An amazingly cool presentation on the future of technology, including a video of MIT’s Sixth Sense technology. The technology can also be replicated with an iPhone and a mirror. If you haven’t seen the video, watch it — you will be blown away.
- A panel discussion with six experts discussing collaboration deployment strategies, and whether hosted vs. managed services vs. do it yourself was a better option.
I also had the chance to sit down with one of these experts, Steve Bleiberg of Johnson & Johnson, to discuss some of the UC choices being made at J&J. He provided me with a few really interesting insights:
- When it comes to Microsoft vs. Cisco for UC, Microsoft OCS has a huge advantage for companies that deploy other Microsoft applications. For companies with huge Microsoft contracts, Microsoft will throw in OCS for free. And it’s hard to compete with free.
- No matter what kind of service provider you employ, there will always be a DIY aspect. There’s also the matter of knowing how to use a service provider, and for what tasks based on your own IT staff. Steve likened it to owning a house and paying the city for water — you still need to hire a plumber, maybe a gas company, and then you also need to know how to turn on your own faucets.
- Cisco is king when it comes to networking gear. But when it comes to UC and desktop videoconferencing, engineers and IT departments tend to see that as not network, but desktop. And most engineers trust their desktops to Microsoft, so Microsoft has that inherent edge over Cisco and Cisco has to overcome that hurdle and be seen as “desktop” if they want to win contracts. This is not to say that Microsoft is better than Cisco, but just that Cisco has that much more work cut out for them to sell their UC solutions.
Be sure to check out my blog entry with video highlights from the exhibit floor at the Wainhouse Research Collaboration Futures Summit ’09.