Today, the dominant enterprise messaging and collaboration platforms are Microsoft Exhcange (with Outlook as the client) and Lotus Notes. On the Internet, Hotmail and Yahoo are the two dominant free Web mail services. Messaging ASPs (who provide outsourced mail hosting) include Critical Path and Commtouch. Popular Instant Messaging platforms include AIM and ICQ from AOL, Yahoo IM and MSN Messenger.
Email will also serve as the building block for collaborative applications. Email can have forms embedded in them, and I can respond in place, and the action can be either the generation of a response email or the update to a website (in case I am connected). Either way, email will go beyond text and becomes “actionable”. An example of a company which is working in this area is Zaplet.
As we look ahead to the future of email, first let us first take a look at the Messaging value chain.
|Device||Message||Client Software||LAN Server
(Fax, Voice Mail)
(SMTP, POP, IMAP)
Global Address Book (LDAP)
Mail Sync – across accounts / devices
There will be multiple devices from which we will access email in the future. Ideally, we would like to use an integrated mailbox, with multiple folders, with a single view which is irrespective of the device from which the access is being done. Messages will comprise of not just text, but also audio and video, and could come in different languages.
The need for a LAN server comes in because at least for the foreseeable future, the connectivity bottleneck is going to remain, and so I would like emails delivered on a server in the office LAN from where I can access them quickly. Of course, when I am away from the office, these messages would need to be sync-ed with my mailbox on the Internet (same email address), so that I can access them from home or a cybercafe through a Web browser in case I am traveling.
Since all emails come and go through a central server in the enterprise, it also becomes possible to do analytics on the text and the senders and recipients. Email is where a significant portion of the knowledge base of a company is getting captured. To be able to distill it is what Tacit does.
Email in the future will become even more tightly integrated with other applications and our lives. It has been the Internet’s killer app, and will continue to remain so as it evolves. Email-for-all is on its way.