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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Does Office 2.0 include Voice 2.0?

I'm stopping by the Office 2.0 Office 2.0 Badge by you.Conference Thursday and Friday. When it started, Office 2.0 was document centric, bringing Microsoft Office to the web. Last year it became more metawork (work about work) and project/workflow oriented.

Realtime talk remains off topic.

There are a few contrary examples. enables live collaborative editing of Microsoft Word docs.

Office interop by you.

So where do Office 2.0 and Talk 2.0 overlap?

Simply, you have...

Talk interop by you.

Talk with Office features might look like Skype plug-ins for document co-writing. Call centric with talk experience enhanced by office tool.

Office with Talk features might include collaborative spaces that add live chat room.

There's room for service-to-service interop, but we haven't seen much.

Three dimensions affect the uptake of this union:

  1. Time structures
  2. Engagement
  3. Packaging

Time Structures

Nearly all Office 2.0 services are mostly asynchronous. While most Talk 2.0 services are nearly synchronous.

Asynch to Live - a spectrum by you.

But we're seeing some blending. For example, Blackberries turn email into instant messages. Persistent IM chat rooms keep history so you can catch up on a conversation.

The other structure to time is that Live Talk is an event. It takes place in time. Divide each conversation into periods before, during and after a call. 

Talk Time by you.

Before a talk, you have to discover people to engage, using a namespace, group affiliations, authentication of ID, permissions, white/yellow page directories, etc.

You'll also want to schedule your conversation using calendars, project deadlines and services that find common time windows.

If you're exceptionally lucky, someone has tools that map to-do lists to agenda items and reminder services.

Office Talk Interop by you.

During a conversation, you can augment the experience. For example, adding live chats or conferencing backchannels to desktop sharing or collaborative writing exercises.

After, you can add the conversation's debris to a team/project/process/transaction workspace. Or publish it to a blog/vlog/wiki/microblog, becoming part of your team's institutional memory, searchable, attributable.

Degrees of Engagement

Ladder Engagement by you.

You are more than an email address or Skype name. The more you share digitally, the closer your experience comes to feel like face-to-face contact. The higher the fidelity (wideband audio, high quality video) the higher you climb the ladder of engagement.

Engagement brings people into a call, make it more real, vivid, increasing focus and participation. When embedded in an Office application, that engagement improves the quality of the work experience.


OK, so you can design solutions that exploit Talk's time, engagement, and modality attributes. How do you add talk with as little effort and as much reliability and scalability as possible?

Adoption Embedability by you.

I started off saying few Office 2.0 companies have Talk 2.0 features in their products. It's a little failure of imagination. Mostly, though, it's the companies that offer Talk 2.0 components haven't made them very embedable.

What does it take to make Talk readily embedable?

embedability by you.

Web services. Web services let my servers talk to your servers. To start, you want access to a metatalk command language, creating accounts, groups, sessions and getting statistics, status, and reports. More, you want access to the content of conversations; the better to index and repurpose them. A startup can't force a customer to download 20MB software clients and keep them running on a desktop; they rarely have that sort of power.

Browser clients. Flash and JavaScript downloads are small and cached. So you can access your Office/Talk service from nearly anywhere. Side benefit: you aren't tied into a Talk supplier's UI, you can adapt and adjust it to meet your changing needs and your deep understanding of the workplaces you support.

The customer's name spaces. Skype commands the Skype user namespace, Microsoft Microsoft's, and so on. As an infrastructure provider, you have to go beyond that; you no longer control the customer relationship. Each Office 2.0 service will either have their own namespace ("thank you for registering at Octopz") or administer an enterprise's namespace ("set up the call using your company directory or org chart").

Security. Your security must be better than your customers' and much better than their customers' security.

Commerce. Office 2.0 companies will charge for many services, so accounting, billing, automatic payments, and revenue sharing must be part of any Talk 2.0 service offer.

Fidelity and Immediacy. Skype's been spoiling people with amazing audio quality. Skype sets expectations high. Wideband spectrum, noise reduction, echo cancellation, high resolution, fast frame rates, deep color depth, smart compression and other techniques are expected in rich clients like Skype. Thin/browser clients suffer from comparison but are in demand anyway. The same applies to the problems of latency, compute demand, and network connectivity. Skype makes it all seem easy but it isn't.

Media access. Many services don't let you manipulate IMs, audio or video during a live session. Others won't let you get them after a session. Your Office 2.0 application may have excellent reasons for touching those streams or files, solving real customer problems.

Widgets and other user-facing components. I'm still surprised at how many Voice 2.0 vendors don't make it simple for designers to add talk without knowing three programming languages and four APIs. Delivering Talk in ready-to-install UI components expands reach and embedability. 

How does Skype fit in?

Skype doesn't. This is an architecture Skype cannot deliver today.

Should Skype strive to? I believe so.

Skype's downloads earn a measure of customer lock-in. But downloading is a barrier to adoption, a problem as people use multiple devices in their onlives, and an inconvenience. Browser-based talk solves these problems for Skype's own customers.

Should Skype offer white label talk?

Others are quickly filling that gap. Jajah has 9 white labeled users for each Jajah branded user. SightSpeed is very successful in private labeling and co-branding its services. Jaduka only delivers wholesale talk. BT/Ribbit has embedding as its charter. Voxeo is years ahead of Skype on its voice platform.

An embedding strategy is within Skype's reach.

The theme of 2009's Office 2.0 conference?

I'm betting on talkification.

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At September 6, 2008 at 3:22 AM , Anonymous Paul Sweeney said...

super super post. agree with nearly everything here. would be surprised if Ribbit and Voxeo were both not going down this exact path.

At September 12, 2008 at 10:22 AM , Anonymous Jim @ jaxtr said...

You bringing up some interesting ideas about convergence of technologies. It makes me think about what Google might do with its online docs programs and Grandcentral that it bought awhile back. Or Zoho and a voip company could do something like that to build more tools for collaboration around. This post certainly opens the imagination.


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