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2008: IBM Predicts 5 Future Trends That Will Drive Unified Communications

IBM Lotus SametimeLet’s go back in time. Not so far back, but back to 2008. IBM was making big changes in how their company worked and continues to work. These five predictions are credited to Mike Rhodin who was then head of the Lotus division and pushing Sametime and Sametime Advanced as IBM’s unified communications and collaboration platform and services to be used internally and to be offered to other companies. Even or especially keeping that in mind, the recognition of these 5 trends all point in the same directions as the #noemail project as described in the process of writing this blog.

We’re talking about #noemail in the marketplace (as one G+ commentor called his business), in serving customers (one reason that another G+er claimed he could not possibly even think of trying #noemail), and building internal communications (as Luis Suarez at IBM has been practicing and promoting since 2009 or earlier).

Here are the five trends, slightly abridged but described in full in this Fierce Wireless archived press release from 08):

  1. The Virtual Workplace will become the rule. By that IBM means that you’ll be carrying your work everywhere you are. Imagine working in a coffee shop! Or taking calls and IMing during off hours!
  2. Instant Messaging and other real-time collaboration tools will become the norm, bypassing e-mail. IBM wasn’t quite ready with something like Google Plus or even Facebook messages, but they are right about collaboration tools changing the way we communicate and work together.
  3. Beyond Phone Calls to Collaborative Business Processes We’ve seen this too. Most smart phone users I know are using more Smart than Phone. That is to say that the phone part has become more about connectivity than about voice messages. In business this has been true for a while. I confess: before I completely turned off my desk phone, I changed the voice mail to ask people to send me email instead — or finally to find me online
  4. Interoperability and Open Standards will tear down proprietary walls across business and public domains. I like this and hope that it’s true. There is continuing evidence that things are becoming more open. But closed and non-interoperable systems persist. Android is gaining on the iPhone. Google Plus includes a Data Checkout option. But Apple remains mostly closed even as Microsoft is diminished in our communications sphere.
  5. New meeting models will emerge. Here IBM is pushing Virtual Worlds as meeting spaces. For whatever reasons, Second Life and others still seem too soon and too flaky. But Skype, and now Google Plus, have become a regular part of our lives in business and in private or social life.

Read the entire press release here.

1 Comment

  1. That IBM report leaves out the idea that a “Social Semantic Desktop” will integrate all our communications (including email-like messages). It kind of fits under “interoperability” but is something beyond that. Ideally, something like my (essentially) peer-to-peer Thunderbird email client (but much better, as a social semantic desktop application) would be able to track all the content on all those systems for me.

    I accepted an invitation to Google+ to be in a web conference on “Discussions on the Future of the Economy”, to talk about the effect technology is having on economics.

    So, am I any happier with a Google+ account? Not so far.

    It was fun to play around with the video chat for a few minutes with my wife and kid on another computer. Although now I see that event shows up in my “stream” but it is not clear who can see that; It just happened automatically. I don’t think that is shared, but it just is not easily clear who can see it.

    Google+ is now just another stream of stuff that I have no local copy of. Anything I put on those servers is lost to me if they go down or I leave the service (unless I go to extra trouble to make a copy). I can’t integrate it in with my existing email archive. There is already a lot of stuff in the stream from the people I’ve added to circles, but I have no easy way to navigate it other that a rather cumbersome and relatively slow web interface. Google now knows anything I search for in that stream.

    Google+ is now one more stream of pressure on me. It joins twitter, which I use mostly for microblogging (like links to slashdot posts). But for twitter, I can ignore it mostly as a site and let Thunderbird just keep up with for me using its RSS feed reader functionality for people I follow and I also get email from it otherwise I would never see what people sent me. I don’t see how to get an RSS feed of Google+ stuff? Maybe it is there, but it is just one more adhoc learning curve. It looks like you can’t do it, except with some third party application like “plusfeed” on appspot. Even with that, which I’m not going to bother to wrestle with right now, I am hostage to Google’s good graces for access to the information others want to send me (reminds me of the current problem with high-priced science journals controlling the copyrights on tax-funded research):.

    Now Google knows part of my social network. I felt socially pressured to put a current picture of me up on the web, invading my privacy in a way email does not pressure me.

    Do I even know when the Logitech camera and microphone are working? Yes, they are supposed to have a red light go on, but to use Google+ chat I had to install opaque proprietary software that I have no idea what it did to my computer. Who audits that kind of stuff? Where do the streams even go when I know they are recording? When I was at IBM Research a decade ago, people were working on indexing video. Yesterday there was a Slashdot article about a DOD project to index videos looking for terrorists, how long is it before all that stuff is routinely screened if it is not already? Is Google going to tell us if it is?

    On the plus side, I added you to a circle and you reciprocated. Although I might have felt that had we sent an email back and forth. Why should you have been essentially pressured to make a public social decision about that? Did Google track everything you did to make that decision?

    Am I better off with Google+ over everyone using email and the phone and personal blogs and web pages, considering the pros and cons? Overall, I don’t think so, sorry. I’ve lost privacy, Google as a company is now more powerful, I’ve lost archiving. There is increased confusion about how to communicate with me (hint, anything on Google+ will probably be missed unless I get an email about it). And so on. (I’m not on Facebook or LinkedIn and such for all those reasons, too. Twitter I just joined in part related to another conference — AERO — but then kept using.)

    I can also see the value in something like Google Hangout, even though in general I prefer email for its asynchronous nature that gives me time to reflect on messages. I have not ever really used Skype much, but I’d be happy with voice Skype and no video part instead of the Google hangouts. Still, I don’t like Skype itself as a proprietary system, even though the functionality is great. Just think what is going to happen to people’s computers someday if Skype gets seriously compromised as an opaque system.

    Did I still feel it was worth it to join Google+? Well, in an incremental way, yes, to participate in that web conference. But overall, I feel it is a step backwards. Kind of like being pushed by a crowd into somewhere I don’t want to go compared the the archived, asynchronous, reflective world that is email.

    Now, I’m all for face-to-face synchronous stuff. I’m not against online synchronous stuff. I just thing that something is going deeply wrong here in the direction we are heading as a democratic society as far as the specific tools gathering social momentum and who is controlling them. But, essentially, there is little funding to build an alternative. Those with a lot of money are defining how we communicate and how we live online. Of course, I guess that is the way US society increasingly works:

    “Who Elected Bill Gates? ”
    “Who elected Bill Gates and gave him control of a national treasure [cough], our public schools? Would someone please suggest that he return to the corporate world and refocus his energies on the technological triumph that is the Zune?”

    Well, who the heck elected Google, and Facebook, and Twitter, and so on, and gave them control of a national treasure, our communications system?

    The basic root of “fascism” comes from “binding together” of corporations and the state. Email, for all its flaws, felt democratic. This brave new #noemail world feels very different to me. It seems we have gone so far down that road in the USA that it is not even noticeable anymore how those with large lumps of money are defining how we live.

    Will I use Google+ more? Probably, like for the hangouts. But if I lived in 1940 Germany, I’d probably find I needed to use the state/corporate railroads, too.

    Anyway, I’ve long had hope another world was possible. I can still try to hang on to that hope. There are aspects of that IBM report that are hopeful (open standards). But what is really confronting me is something very different. I want my email back, or at least the peer-to-peer democratic aspects of it embodied in something technically better.

    Right now, I’m thinking about rereading E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” about people living in little “cells” with low band-width video conferencing, dependent on systems they had little understanding of or control over. I’d say that is a fairly accurate description of a #noemail world as it really is experienced in 2011. I can just hope (against experience) that #noemail will get better quickly through the work of altruists or enlightened-self-interested individuals.

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