Will Vobi Make Enterprise Social a Reality?

Publishers Outlook

Will Vobi Make Enterprise Social a Reality?

By Rich Tehrani, Group Editor-in-Chief, TMC  |  July 08, 2014

One of the biggest disappointments in the world of tech predictions has to be the enterprise social space. For years, the common wisdom in the market was that this segment would be booming.

Millennials were supposed to infiltrate the workforce and with them bring a golden age of collaboration, replacing email and many other pieces of software in their wake.

Huge bets were made in the area. Microsoft (News - Alert) bought Yammer, and Cisco spent a fortune to launch Quad.

Now, a new company called Vobi is out to change the collaboration/enterprise social market with a service that seems to blend the best of social and email and presentations. Vobi acknowledges past industry failures, but thinks that with more powerful devices on the market and BYOD a fixture in the enterprise, the time is right for the company to become the enterprise collaboration vehicle.

Good point. Companies are using SharePoint, LinkedIn (News - Alert) WebSphere, WebEx, Skype, iMessage, and email – and, to be honest, it is a mess. Try to find your communications from six months ago, and you may not remember where to even start looking. Vobi replaces all of the above with a platform that allows for multiparty video, chat, supports mobile apps (Android and iPhone (News - Alert) with an iPad-specific app on the way), allows the sharing of YouTube and other videos, lets users scroll through or download presentations as they are being given, and more. Right now, this browser-based solution relies on a plugin, but it will soon allow you to leverage WebRTC. This is a good thing because some antivirus companies like those from AVG are aggressively protecting against the company’s web downloads.

I like the name Vobi and the look of its interface. The ease by which you can configure a session and start a chat using Vobi reminds me of any social network you might currently use. And just like these networks, the service will alert you on your mobile device when you receive a message.

Basically, the conversation becomes the driver of the communication, not the application. The system allows archiving of everything that was presented and shared – meaning there is always a record of what went on. That’s noteworthy considering that a typical web presentation is generally forgotten about, and the notes and conversations that went with it are generally inaccessible in the future.

Murali Sitaram of Cisco (News - Alert) patiently explained to me years back how knowledge preservation will be essential in corporations as baby boomers retire. His knowledge on the matter is 100 percent accurate. Vobi, like Quad, retains this knowledge in the corporation. (By the way, Quad is no longer sold by Cisco, and it will be serviced only for two more years.)

That brings us back to Vobi. Wes Cole, the company’s CEO, thinks the opportunity for Vobi and its customers is immense. He points to special features that differentiate the company from most other solutions. That includes local rendering of vector graphics so they look their best on your particular device. In addition, the service includes screen or application sharing so you can instantly take collaboration to a more personalized level.

Going forward we can expect Vobi to seamlessly work with phones, so when you receive a call from another Vobi user you will be able to instantly add video and screen sharing, etc., to the call. The company also expects to add connections to cloud storage companies, meaning easier sharing of resources within the application and eventually integration with consumer social networks you know and love. Email integration will eventually be available and calls will be recorded – they will also be seamlessly transferred as needed from phone to office to cloud.

Vobi makes companies more productive. If you can get workgroups to use the service, they will be more effective than they would be using a range of non-coordinated solutions. The company at press time was offering free trials, after which the cost for Vobi service is $5 per user per month. There will be free guest connectivity, but guests will need to pay to get more features such as mobile connectivity or the ability to initiate calls.

Edited by Maurice Nagle