Collaborate: A workgroup solution for the post-PC world

Mobile teams need mobile workgroup solutions.

Finding the perfect solution to empower your workgroup to be more efficient, effective and productive has been a holy grail of the software industry for a long time. Back in the late 90's I worked for a company named Interliant that sold Lotus Notes and Domino-hosted instances that promised great workgroup potential. Unfortunately, like so many workgroup solutions, it never lived up to the promise on many counts.  

Workgroup solutions have gotten better over the years. Sharepoint and the open source Wiki solutions have moved the state-of-the-art, not to mention solutions like Mindshare. But just when we were starting to make some real progress, they went and moved the goalposts. Mobile devices and mobile teams leave solutions designed for PCs in the dustbin. A company out of Boston called Collaborate has come up with a great solution that not only is designed for mobile workgroups, but actually leverages the technology.

Collaborate is the brainchild of Dave Greenstein (an old friend of mine) and Matt Cutler. Matt and Dave originally had developed an app called Kibits for instant networking. They have taken a lot of the technology developed for Kibits and built it into Collaborate.

Collaborate allows you to share just about anything with the members of your group. That's a good thing because in today's world you can share just about anything. Files, URLs, information, to do lists, locations, etc.

Collaborate lets you share by using the apps and solutions you already have. Dropbox, Evernote and all of the usual suspects included. This is a key piece of the puzzle. Today's mobile groups use BYOD devices that access cloud-based applications directly. Telling people that they cannot use these apps just is not going to work.

Below is a video from Collaborate that explains it a bit better (if you don't see a video hit reload):

To me, this represents a class of solutions that is designed from the ground up to capture the mobile market. It represents the coming of age of mobile applications. I am tired of the top apps in the app stores being games of one form or another. Moving beyond games to real productivity is the natural way of it, I think.

I remember when PC gaming was one of the largest use cases for PC owners. Besides phone and email, if mobile devices are going to be used for real work, we need mobile apps that are designed to leverage the medium to let people accomplish real work.

Collaborate is one of these kinds of apps. I have experimented using it with my own four-person group on a project I am working on. It is good for live chatting, sharing files, URLs and notes. It is also great for assigning tasks in a project and tracking them.

I don't know what the killer business app for mobile devices will be. But I do know that it is not Angry Birds. People are working differently. The tools they use are different. This creates great opportunities for developers like the people behind Collaborate. 

I have been spending a lot of time recently with startup companies and entrepreneurs. It is no secret that real mobile apps for business are going to be in high demand. It will be interesting to see what innovation emerges as a result. Collaborate is part of this brave new breed. Check it out and let me know what you think.

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