BEA Systems Inc was among more than 50 vendors touting forthcoming business tools at the inaugural Office 2.0 conference in San Francisco.
Office 2.0 is a buzzword that can be broadly defined as business communications and productivity tools used through a Web browser.
Google Inc enterprise products manager Rajen Sheth defined Office 2.0 as being all about collaboration, during the conference.
Sheth, speaking on a panel at the event, said Office 2.0 collaboration will be about composing a document, publishing it, collaborating with others and then being able to easily find that document afterwards. Not surprisingly, we think that search is the navigation part of Office 2.0, he said.
Fellow panelist Ismael Ghalimi, chief executive of open-source BPMS vendor Intalio Inc, said Office 2.0 would enable new office productivity through your web browser.
Currently, workers often collaborate via email and then file various parts of that exchange in disparate enterprise systems, Google’s Sheth said. [Office 2.0] is filling in those gaps, he said.
Key for business users is the ability to share, edit and add outside information to a document in real-time online.
Redwood City, California-based Intalio was among several companies at the event that were readying Office 2.0 products. The 55 or so corporate sponsors of the event represent Office 2.0 developers from products including spreadsheets, tools, databases, everything you can really think of, Ghalimi said.
While the Office 2.0 market was at the beginning of the beginning, Ghalimi said it had quickly moving forward during the past nine months, thanks to improved Web browsers and the advent of Ajax, the Web development technique that enables interactive online applications.
He expects early adopters of Office 2.0 product will be from small to mid-sized businesses and the education market, notably high schools and colleges where students need access to broad volumes of information both on campus and at home.
Intalio is readying to release an enterprise version of its PBMS, or business process management system, product in December, following a beta launch in November, Ghalimi said. Essentially, the product will integrate and manage various Office 2.0 and other applications and processes, he said.
BEA used the conference to detail and give its most comprehensive demonstration of its forthcoming Project Builder, first announced at BEAWorld last month.
Project Builder lets non-technical workers to build web-based office applications.
The product includes various web tools, such as forms, databases, blogs, wikis, images and drop-down lists, said Ajay Gandhi, director of marketing of emerging products, in an interview.
He said it would enable workers to solve every-day problems, such as launching a product, hiring a new candidate or formulating a new marketing plan.
By creating an online application to receive input and update an existing document in real time means workers can more quickly come to a decision on the final outcome, he said. It’s creating a work place online, he said. You can work more naturally.
The alternative is a cumbersome string of emails, instant messages and phone calls, Gandhi added.
Every time a user adds a new element to the online document, such as an edit or a outside link to information, a new version of the document is created, as well as a history log of who recorded what and when.
And it’s designed for everyday workers, not the IT department. The goal is that people who can use email can use Builder, he said.
The program is slated for release in the first half of next year and will likely be available for various deployment and pricing options, Gandhi said. It will be marketed to large enterprises.
Karen Leavitt, president of WebOffice at WebEx Communications Inc, said, on an event panel, said that in addition to better communication and collaboration, Office 2.0 would enable workers to better blend their home and office lives.
I really think there will be a time in the future when there’s no such thing as offline, she said. Online will be the new electricity. We just won’t be offline unless we choose to be.
Leavitt’s analogy seemed to unintentionally underscore some of the initial skepticism around Office 2.0; electricity will, after all, remain the new electricity until another form of cheap, reliable and readily accessible power is invented.