An article by Paul Krill in InfoWorld caught my eye. It covers a web conference given by Oracle yesterday in which company representatives made lots of references to enterprise collaboration under the term Enterprise 2.0 (following on from the current trend of overusing the phrase "Web 2.0").
The company was promoting its new Oracle WebCenter product (or platform if you prefer). WebCenter is supposed to be a way for developers to combine and integrate enterprise applications and Web-aware services "including business applications, enterprise content, business intelligence, enterprise search, communication and collaboration services, and Web 2.0-centric applications." (Emphasis is mine)
When a company the size and nature of Oracle starts emphasizing the word "collaboration" in their public and press announcements, there is likely to be an announcement forthcoming that is of interest to this blog. With IBM, Cisco, and Microsoft all making major public business statements in this arena (accompanied by product announcements and/or web conferencing acquisitions), it is only natural to expect Oracle to fill out the field with a competitive position.
I'm not an Oracle user, so I don't have experience with their product offerings in the conferencing and collaboration space. I decided to do a little searching on the Web and their corporate site and found that Oracle has had communications products on offer for its customers for some time now. The website currently labels the products "Oracle Real-Time Collaboration 10g" and there are a few documents available for review or download. All the documents are dated August 2005 and I found outdated hyperlinks in them that no longer go anywhere.
I looked up some tutorials and user guides for Oracle's web conferencing product on enterprise and educational sites (companies often post educational materials for their employees on how to use the software they have bought). I don't know how old the materials are that I found, but they included some rather severe restrictions on use of the conferencing software.
Of course the hosting company must have the Oracle application server and database installed as a prerequisite. But it looks like the web conferencing software is very Microsoft dependent. Functions such as text chat are not available on Netscape browsers... Only Internet Explorer is supported. A host can share Microsoft documents by converting them to HTML pages -- only supported on a Windows machine with Microsoft Office installed. (Again, these requirements may well be obsolete... I can't tell from the current information on the Oracle website).
I thought it was a little strange that there wasn't any more recent information or announcements about web conferencing or collaboration on the Oracle site. I took a look at an Oracle collaboration user forum to see if it was getting any customer activity and saw that the most recent message seemed to reflect my own curiosity, with a fascinating answer:
September 5, 2007: "Anybody concerned over the lack of information on the Oracle Website regarding Collaboration Suite. It seems to be disappearing?"
October 3, 2007: "No it is not. However Oracle is just integration [sic] some new products (eg Stellent) into the new Collaboration Suite called Beehive (internal codename). They are using this internally now for a couple of weeks. I guess that there will be more news soon."
Hmmm... A rumored new internal release (with a cute codename, no less!) and presentations playing up Oracle's stand on enterprise collaboration. The crystal ball says to stand by for more announcements from the company to keep them in the ring with the other major players in the enterprise platform world.