Technology Positioning Statement Report

3.1.7 Groupware, Collaboration Tools

Description: Text-based collaborative editing and document sharing that enable multiple users to interact, and to support the group editing of documents.

Category: 3 - Communication Technologies   Subcategory: 1 - General Purpose Communication Technologies
Old Category: End-User Tools – Workgroup Computing – Collaborative Services




Industry UsageSC Usage

Performance Metrics

See the list in the report on this page.

Usage and Dependencies

Industry Position: There is a wide and growing variety of tools and protocols in this category. The following functional criteria should be considered the minimal requirements, beyond the ability to deliver slide presentations, for any Web-based data conferencing solution:

Audio — Slide presentations cannot be delivered without a verbal accompaniment. Because of bandwidth-related performance issues as well as hardware concerns, those wishing to enable voice interaction among all participants should favor the use of teleconferencing over solutions in which audio is delivered over the network.

Chat — Any presentation is much enhanced by the ability of participants to engage in discussions or ask questions. This is an especially important feature for solutions that have only one-way (presenter to attendees) audio capabilities.

Polling — In a one-to-many Web-based presentation, polling serves as very useful tool for gauging the audience's level of comprehension, level of interest, and for allowing the audience to vote or render its opinion on any session-related matter.

Whiteboarding — A whiteboard and whiteboard annotation tools serve as tools for the presenter to direct the audience's attention to particular sections of a presentation, and for illustrating or emphasizing an idea.

The following vendors (and their products) are the leading Web conferencing solution providers:

  • Astound — Astound Conference Center (
  • Centra — Centra99 (
  • Contigo — i2i Internet Conferencing System (
  • Intervu — NetPodium (
  • — MSHOW (
  • Placeware — Conference Center 2000 (
  • Sneakerlabs — iMeet (
  • WebEx — WebEx Meetings (
  • WebSentric — Presentation.Net (

However, the leading product is Microsoft NetMeeting version 3, the Windows real-time collaboration and conferencing client that is an easy-to-use Web phone, as well as a tool for corporate productivity. It supports all the aforementioned collaboration features, and is bundled free with Windows 2000.

With Exchange 2000, Microsoft will have nurtured Exchange from a single messaging server product into three offerings, and what is beginning to look like a full-blown product line:

  1. Exchange 2000 Server is the base model-messaging server for midsize organizations and branch offices. It retains the old a 16GB limit on the data store.
  2.  Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server allows for a data store of unlimited size, partitioning of the store into discrete databases for better management and reliability, and four-way active/active clustering.
  3. Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server, the third and newest member of the product line, supports video and audio conferencing through H.323 or IP multicasting, and data conferencing (including application sharing and file transfer) through the T.120 protocol. It includes a new NetMeeting client, simplified management of conference resources (if you're using the Outlook 2000 client), and load balancing and failover capabilities. Conferencing Server, which integrates nicely with Netmeeting, makes it more scalable (by using IPmulticast for video), and gives a number of advantages over the standard Netmeeting client.

These servers support Microsoft's Web Store architecture, the new Outlook Web Access. They also support instant messaging and come with a new MSN Messenger client.  There are several compelling features with the new Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server. The new MSN Messenger and NetMeeting clients are now tied to Active Directory, so users can browse, search, download or check names against Active Directory to add contacts to their desktops. The new clients retain support for Internet Locator Server (ILS), for the more dynamic directory requirements for presence information and IP address resolution. MSN Messenger communicates simultaneously within the corporate Exchange environment and over the Internet, even though it uses different protocols to do so (RVP internally, MSN Messenger's proprietary protocol externally).

Performance Metrics:
Functionality: application architecture; archiving; audio; connectivity awareness; chat; visual quality; polling and reporting; private channels; PowerPoint operability; synchronized web pages; video; T.126 standard whiteboard. Infrastructure: standard APIs; seat connectivity; deployment; directory integration; firewall friendliness; H.323 compliance; G.711 and G.721 audio compression; H.261 and H.263 video compression; T.120 for data viewing compliance.

The W3C has developed (in Java) a group-editable web browser called Jigsaw. This open-source product is HTTP 1.1-compliant, and implements WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning) which allows users to collaboratively edit and manage files on remote web servers. This experimental tool sets the strategic direction for future expansion of collaborative document authoring and editing.

SC Usage: Desktop conferencing: Microsoft NetMeeting, which is available on all SC desktops, supports text-only chat in real time as well as audio- and videoconferencing (if a microphone and camera are installed). Text requires minimal bandwidth, but audio and videoconferencing can be bandwidth-intensive.

NetMeeting protocols conflict with the DOE firewall, which limits its use on the Internet. This issue may be overcome with the use of Microsoft's new Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA), which can enable secure NetMeeting service.

Windows 2000 Professional, planned for deployment in 2001, contains an improved version of NetMeeting, version 3.0. Exchange 2000 also has enhanced collaboration features (see category 3.1.1).

Group conferencing: SC uses ISDN-based and TCP/IP-based collaboration tools to support group conferencing, including Polycom ViewStation and GroupCal.

SC Application Impacts: General impact on SC business decisionmaking. In light of the increasing need to save time, energy, and money, SC should encourage the use of group conferencing technologies. They can make a major contribution to cost avoidance and productivity.

Last Update: Valid Until:


Previous TPS Report

Enterprise Web-Based Data Conferencing Tools, Arianna Breitstein-Arazi, April 14, 2000, Giga.

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