Citrix announced today the acquisition of Podio – aptly described as a collaborative work platform. This fits well with the Citrix Online business (e.g. the GoTo product set – Meeting, Webinar, Training, Assist and Manage). It also matches well with Citrix Online’s targeted small and medium business strategy. And it also continues to match Citrix up against one of its primary competitors: VMware – who added Zimbra and Socialcast to its product portfolio in the last couple of years. Citrix will need to invest in Podio to develop it into an enterprise-class solution, but Citrix has a decent track record of doing that with the GoTo product line.
However, it also highlights a trend in the web conferencing market: web conferencing can’t be just about web conferencing anymore.
Adobe, Cisco, IBM and Microsoft – major web conferencing vendors – have all added or developed SaaS collaborative work platforms over the last several years that complement or incorporate their web conferencing technologies. The convergence of collaborative work spaces with web conferencing is natural, as the idea of persistent web conferencing spaces evolves into a collaborative workspace with data storage capabilities – with the added social twist of features like activity streams.
The convergence is still a work-in-progress, however. Although the vendors provide web conferencing and collaborative workspaces, the integrations are still on the light side. Vendors are still trying to figure out the value of subsumed web conferencing within collaborative workspaces and not give up their existing web conferencing revenue. Furthermore, getting one vendor’s web conferencing technology to work with another vendor’s collaborative workspace is nearly impossible given the lack of standards for web conferencing. Therefore, if you want to mix and match, you sacrifice integration.
Another challenge is the delivery model. Web conferencing is primarily consumed through software-as-a-service (SaaS), with little concern for content security and compliance issues because the data shared in a web conference generally does not persist on the SaaS providers data stores (unless there is a specific choice to do so). SaaS collaborative workspaces bring persistent content storage in a third party data center, which in turn, brings the challenges and questions about data security, compliance, management and ownership. All issues that web conferencing solutions have not had to address at any significant level.
Adding to the complexity is the development and evolution of enterprise social software tools. Activity streams, blogs, wikis, profiles, communities, etc. are part of the convergence and, based on recent field research by our team (led by Larry Cannell), many enterprises and their IT teams are still grappling with the challenges to incorporate enterprise social software into the enterprise environment.
In sum, web conferencing is not just web conferencing anymore.