The theme of consumer technology reaching the enterprise has been recurrent of late. There are two factors that appear to be driving this. From an IT perspective, these technologies have become more stable and reliable. From an HR perspective, enterprises are now swelling their ranks with next-generation of users that are accustomed to social networking and other Web 2.0-class technical capabilities. Here at DEMOfall, several vendors launched business applications that are based on popular consumer services.
- MindTouch. The company's dekiBox is a plug-and-play wiki appliance for businesses. The software is sold as a service on top of the original hardware device purchase. Competes with Socialtext and Jotspot. (Disclosure note: Omidyar Network is an investor in Socialtext.) It will be interesting to see if businesses find value in wiki appliances - appliances have proved successful in the past as a means to introducing new or complicated technologies into the enterprise - network management, storage, e-mail, etc. were often first introduced via an appliance. The company thinks they've found the secret sauce, as they are already creating a new wiki every five seconds.
- Serebrum. Axon is the company's AJAX-based, WYSIWYG wiki environment for businesses. Content updates are made in a central repository, and information is published across multiple channels - you can see content updates in a Blackberry, on a PC, etc.
For sales and marketing users
- BuzzLogic. This is
incredibly interesting service launch for someone who likes data
visualization and flow analysis. The company posed a simple question to
marketers: How do you know what's being
said about you in the blogosphere? BuzzLogic maintains a 'conversation
index' and has an analytic tool called the 'influence engine.' For
example, when the Chumby was released at Foo Camp,
who talked about it? What were the various threads of conversation?
Where did they intersect? What nodes (or which bloggers) wielded the
most influence on the dialogue? This is
being targeted at marketers who would like to measure and engage with
social media, and there are 50 companies in the beta.
- Genius.com. On the face of it, SalesGenius is an alternative to salesforce.com for sales pipeline management. The difference lies in the capacity for direct-to-customer interactions. The demo included an IM application for chatting with sales prospects, and features that allowed salespeople to customize web marketing materials or special offers, and analytics for individual Web visits.
General-purpose business apps
- Koral claims better, more efficient document sharing. More specifically, they want to bring the sophisticated consumer sharing of photos, text, etc. to business files. Users tag files (as they would tag a blog post), the system indexes the tags, and the files are then searchable by tag. Koral also creates a tag cloud for files in the system, and shows previews of the search results. Users can choose to receive automatic updates when files change, either via RSS or e-mail. You could also subscribe to various authors in the system - e.g., another Omidyar Network staffer could subscribe to all of my IRR calculations. Document push is also an option; updated versions of a file (or an update alert) can be sent to the desktops of other users, even if they didn't log in or subscribe to that document. Free for basic usage, though the limitations of 'basic' were not defined. As someone who iterates endlessly with changing teams, this looks amazing for collaboration and version control.
- System One. This enterprise search engine refines results in real time as you type in text. e.g., type in 'Christine' and your number-one result will be the iMDB page for a killer car; continue typing in 'mashup hacks' and you'll get pointed to my blog post on the subject. The user's dashboard maintains an individual history so that your dekstop search 'learns' about your preferences. The product sits within a wiki workspace environment and is targeted at enterprises and researchers, but it seems from the demo that this would be useful for any search user. The only thing that would make me hesitate as an individual user is the US government's threatening interest in acquiring search records - the tradeoff between increased relevance and privacy is a tough one.
- ThinkFree. ThinkFree AJAX Edition is an online alternative to Microsoft Office. ThinkFree does also provide round-trip data exchange with Office documents, which would be essential to any adoption whatsoever. The compatibility looked acceptable in the demo. The company must be tough as a bubble survivor, but they've chosen a hard row to hoe.
- PostPath is a Linux-based e-mail and collaboration system compatible with native Microsoft Exchange network protocols. In the demo, PostPath showed that creating PostPath users was identical to setting up Exchange users. Looking at an Outlook desktop, you couldn't tell that it was connected to a PostPath server and not to Exchange. PostPath also made it look easy to ensure high availability. Doing a hard power-off on their primary server resulted in Outlook failing over to the secondary server and automatically reconnecting. Even better, the user didn't have to exit Outlook or do any reconfiguration. Most e-mail vendors don't have compatibility with Exchange, so the company may have addressed a key hurdle to adoption of this open solution.
Final note: As an all-purpose business user and former marketer, I'd personally consider using BuzzLogic and Koral, though the general trend towards more user-friendly functionality is a good one across the board.