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Enterprise messaging services fight to make themselves heard, but are they doomed already?

Jon Gold | May 14, 2014
Odds are, you probably don't communicate with friends and family the same way you did a decade ago. The rise of the text message and the fall of the phone call as ways to stay in touch has been precipitous, even if the centrality of email has been unquestioned for far longer than 10 years.

Odds are, you probably don't communicate with friends and family the same way you did a decade ago. The rise of the text message and the fall of the phone call as ways to stay in touch has been precipitous, even if the centrality of email has been unquestioned for far longer than 10 years.

What's more, with the rise of buzzwords like BYOD and consumerization, the way you communicate with co-workers has probably changed significantly, as well. Text messages, BlackBerry Messenger, Gchat, and a host of other ways to ask about TPS reports have all made their way from your personal life to your professional life.

But it's been a messy transition — surveys show significant levels of frustration among the IT crowd at the impact of BYOD on the business. An iPass/MobileIron survey from last year found that the vast majority of companies had BYOD policies in place, but that little more than one in three said that the policy was an effective one. Spending on mobile device security software rocketed past the billion-dollar mark in 2013, according to Infonetics, propelled by major security concerns in the enterprise.

Given that, it's perhaps less than surprising that a small but growing number of companies have begun attempting to address the issue from the messaging side — combining the immediacy and ease of use of consumer technology with the security and centralization of a business-centric system.

That said, the market's far from mature — and some analysts believe that the budding startups of the enterprise messaging world face serious challenges in carving out a permanent niche.

One of the best-known names in the marketplace is CoTap, a startup founded by ex-Yammer executive Jim Patterson. CoTap offers an enterprise-focused instant messaging platform for mobile devices, and announced that it had received $10 million in venture capital funding earlier this year. That takes the company to $15.5 million in total, when the proceeds of a series A round in May 2013 are added.

Patterson says that he left Yammer a year after its acquisition by Microsoft, largely because he saw the rise of the smartphone as an opportunity.

"I honestly believe it's a once-in-a-decade, once-in-a-generation-type opportunity, where essentially it throws everything up into the air," he says. "It's an opportunity for upstarts to unseat incumbents."

Even so, Patterson noted, the idea isn't to replace other methods of communication.

"There's some communication happening today in email and desktop IM that will migrate over to mobile messaging, but I do see mobile messaging as a new way to communicate. And with new forms of communication, what you end up getting is more communication — it's not always zero-sum," he says.

 

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