I've been at Interop New York Wednesday and Thursday, and I've had the chance to talk with a lot of people who want to make small businesses happy. The conference itself is interesting, combining Interop, Web 2.0, and Mobile Business Expo under one roof. Looking down on the exhibit floor, I was struck by several trends that have implications for small businesses and the way they get things done:
- Videoconferencing keeps growing: Since I had to fly from home to the conference, boy, do I understand the push behind this. The thing that's impressive about the current crop of new products and services is the extent to which they're bringing high-quality video and audio to the desktop. A side effect of the downsizing is down-pricing, which makes the products from companies like Vidyo realistic possibilities for even small companies. As air travel becomes more expensive and less pleasant, the ability to have a videoconference with partners and clients will become more important for small businesses.
- Where you are matters less and less: In the telephony world there's a function called "presence" -- it lets people know whether you're at, say, your desk before they try to call you there. Companies like Varaha are banking on anti-presence; they will get a call made to your desk phone to you no matter where you are -- and they won't let on to the caller that you're anywhere but behind your desk. For small businesses that want to keep their size from getting in the way of contracts, or highly mobile professionals who need to be highly available, it's a great capability.
- Applications matter; platforms don't: Lots of folks have predicted this development for some time, but we're seeing evidence that browser-based apps are truly moving to standards-based programming rather than tying themselves to a particular operating system or browser. This is, I think, great news if you're a small business looking for flexibility in IT purchasing and less-than-great news if you've built your business on a particular operating system.
I'll have more from Interop during the next couple of days, but in a city reeling from large-enterprise business failure we're seeing a conference where most of the exhibitors are busy focusing their efforts on the market they know is going to lead the economy in any recovery -- the small and midsize business market. Enjoy the attention.