Making sense of a mixed-up market

The Web-based collaboration software market is so new that industry analysts are still trying to figure out how to categorize it. Because many vendors remain niche-focused, some analysts prefer to break the products down along functional lines, such as discussion databases, file sharing, Web conferencing, teamware and instant messaging.

But as the market matures and as asynchronous and synchronous tools begin to converge, other analysts are coming up with umbrella terms to define the different products. IDC in Framingham, Mass., recently released a study on the collaborative computing market that breaks down the offerings into three categories:

n Integrated collaborative environment The traditional category that included groupware and messaging has been updated into this one, which includes products that, through Web-enablement and integration, offer solid platform foundations for online applications such as real-time conferencing, team collaboration and custom applications. These products also take advantage of shared resources such as calendars, document storage and task lists. Products include Lotus Development Corp.'s Domino and Notes, Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange, Novell Inc.'s GroupWise and Teamware Group's Office.

n Team collaborative applications Also referred to as teamware or digital work space, products in this category allow workers in disparate locations or multiple organizations to work together via the Web in virtual spaces. Project-oriented tools generally include whiteboarding, threaded discussions, chat capability and a common discussion database, a document repository, calendars and a task list. Added to that can be Web conferencing, application sharing, online project management and live chat capability. Solutions in this space include eRoom, Lotus QuickPlace, Framework Technologies Corp.'s Active Project 2000, Inovie Software Inc.'s TeamCenter, Open Text Corp.'s Livelink, NexPrise's ipTeam, SiteScape Inc.'s Forum 5.1 and OmniSpace Technologies Inc.'s OmniSpace.net.

n Real-time conferencing This remains a niche category with the focus on synchronous communication, including Web conferencing, which utilizes tools such as voice-over-IP audioconferencing, videoconferencing and data sharing, as well as application sharing, instant meetings, instant messaging and live chat. Products include Latitude Communications' MeetingPlace, Evoke Communications Inc.'s i2i, Centra Software Inc.'s Centra 99, Lotus Sametime, CUseeMe Networks Inc.'s solutions and PlaceWare Inc.'s Conference Center.

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