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Are Enterprises Ready to Take a Spin?

The world of communications and collaborating continues to amaze me. I was recently contacted by Thomas Engdahl, CEO of a company called Net Power and Light to do a demo of a new video conferencing product called Spin. After a couple of false starts to do a demo (@$!% 3G bandwidth!), we were finally able to get together and do a really in-depth demonstration of the technology and the capabilities that are in Spin.

Initially I thought Spin was a consumer /social product, but Thomas told me that, while that was the roots of the company, they are now focused on the enterprise and especially a few key verticals. Spin is only available today for the iPhone and iPad as an iOS app in the Apple App Store.

The Spin team has built a very unique view of how to manage the variety of images, tools, and other capabilities in a collaboration. This is done by having a discrete set of layers of what the user sees and the ability to manipulate each layer independently and with full control. This figure shows how this is accomplished. The base layer is the content, for example a PDF presentation, a streaming video, or even soon an Office document/app. This runs below the Spin layers and is synchronized between the participants in a Spin session. So if we are sharing a video, we all see it with time-based synchronization as well as distributed control. The same is true for a shared document. All of the content is loaded directly to each device and then synchronized between devices. So in a PDF presentation, any participant can advance the slides. The next layer includes the video images of the participants, managed individually in each device so each participant can optimize who they see, large or small. Above the video layer, the physical layer manages control, the Virtual Experiences layer allows the addition of a variety of fixed or animated objects, and finally the "Chalk Talk" layer enables white boarding and mark-up.

What makes this unique is that each layer can be optimized to the virtual experience created. For example, in a medical app, the base layer can be an X-ray image, the video layer is the participating doctor and radiologist, and tools like rulers and measurement devices can be added to enable a better experience at the Virtual Experiences layer. Similarly, in customer service, this layered concept could be used in a variety of ways to enhance the experience.

Today, you can download the Spin app from the Apple App Store and try it out. Thomas told me that an Android app will be here in the early fall, and gave a big hint that a major television manufacturer was planning to incorporate Spin as well. With a background from Comcast, it is clear that the integration into systems is part of the direction.

The thing I came away with from our meeting was that Spin is opening the door to collaboration being an OVERLAY to other activities and content. The collaboration is not so much an event as a tool that allows distributed users to interact about something in a natural way. While the app is still new and will no doubt evolve, it points to something that may be very interesting in our market.

We have been talking about how consumer technology impacts IT, and now I think I see something that started as a consumer social play and will rapidly move to enterprise. The capability that Spin may provide, both directly through SDKs and indirectly through partners could be a significant new set of collaboration capabilities. Layering may be part of our future.