Web Conferencing: New Tools Go Beyond Screen Sharing

How it works: Tools that allow people to share a browser and applications are evolving from Web conferencing tools, says Richard Edwards, an Ovum principal research analyst. For example, IBM is developing Blue Spruce, a tool that lets linked-up users browse the Internet and run Web applications. Two people could jointly use a service like Google Docs. Or they could put webcam feeds in one corner of their screens, a list of constantly updating stock prices in another and, in the leftover space, put an app that calls up recent news when one of them clicks on a listed stock.

Who is doing it: Reuters used Blue Spruce to send market data to Asia-based traders as U.S. days ended. Arizona State University (ASU) plans to use it with medical students to practice treatment consultations. The tool could also facilitate projects in which researchers and their data sets are scattered around the country or world, says Robert Greenes, chair of the biomedical informatics department at ASU. "This can be a very powerful technique to bring in the live sources of data wherever they are," he says. It could also be used to treat patients remotely.

Growth Potential: More Web-based collaboration tools that enable composite apps are likely to appear within the next 18 months, says Edwards. Some browser plug-ins may provide similar capabilities. Ted Schadler, a principal analyst with Forrester Research, says such tools will be most useful for small teams working on a single project, like a sales proposal or a presentation that all members can mark up and edit. He adds, however, that organizations could be slow to leave behind current document authoring and collaboration tools.

Read more about applications in CIO's Applications Drilldown.

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