Collaboration Of the Month

FRAMINGHAM (04/18/2000) - Bridging the gap between real-time and Web-based collaboration isn't a new idea. A variety of firms, including Cambridge, Massachusetts-based eRoom Technology Inc. (formerly Instinctive Technology Inc.) and messaging powerhouse Lotus Development Corp., offer such products and services with eRoom and QuickPlace, respectively. Both products allow customers to set up collaborative work spaces on the Web or a corporate intranet. Once such a space has been established, users can share and store documents, create threaded discussions and meet in real time.

Market Appeal

Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, estimates that there are more than 150 million mailboxes in existence worldwide. By bringing collaborative functionality to e-mail, FireDrop stands a chance of penetrating both the business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets, says Forrester analyst Navi Radjou.

"What FireDrop does is dynamically alter the content of e-mail," says Radjou.

"E-mail is an asynchronous tool. It's not real-time and it's pretty boring.

What these people [are] trying to do is bring a real-time component to e-mail and bring convergence from e-mail, instant messaging and real-time communications."

But Radjou says that if FireDrop decides to break into the corporate market with a stand-alone messaging product, it may prove to be a daunting task, as most major corporations have already implemented products such as Lotus Notes/Domino, Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange or Novell Inc.'s GroupWise.

"I don't think [FireDrop] will have an opportunity for expansion if they offer Zaplet as a stand-alone product," he adds. "It would be better to partner with the messaging giants - Lotus Notes and Exchange. They also need to be talking to the e-mail service providers for another set of partnerships. For the e-mail outsourcers, [FireDrop's] product provides a new, competitive differentiator."

Still, FireDrop President David Roberts speaks optimistically about his company's chances against other tool vendors. "Static collaboration tools won't prevail in the long term," he says. "An Internet-based, integrated set of collaborative services is what FireDrop is doing, and [it's] breathing new life into e-mail by enlivening it with dynamic content."

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