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Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Wolfe's Den: Mad Rush For Enterprise 2.0 Patents

Vendors are vying to lock up rights to the social-enterprise. Here's a selective look at cool patent tech from Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, OpenText , and SAP, as well as two surprising newcomers.

Cisco's Immersive Environment
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)

Like any nascent technology, Enterprise 2.0 is still searching for its sweet spot. Right now, the first wave of adoption has seen heavy user uptake of wikis. But wikis are just the curtain-raiser, and a minor first act, at that. The main performance is the crop of serious, first-generation products currently rolling out from vendors such as Cisco, IBM, Jive Software, Microsoft, and SAP.

Which got me to thinking: Whenever a new area starts to take off -- before it hits the public consciousness, actually -- companies rush to lock up its intellectual-property underpinnings. This means patents.

Looking at patents is worthwhile, because they give a heads up on interesting developments which might lie down the road. They provide inferential insight into vendors' possible product plans, or, more correctly, the type of stuff they've been thinking about and the problems they've had to work to overcome.

Thus I embarked on an unscientific survey and searched both awarded patents and patent applications. The latter are sometimes more interesting, because they're of recent vintage. Applications typically take several years to wend their way through the system, so patents are by definition slightly older technology, and more indicative of a vendors' potential position regarding reaping future intellectual-property licensing revenues than of what they've got up their sleeves, product-wise.

This is a long way of saying that I undoubtedly missed some important stuff. OTOH, I did turn up some interesting tech from (in alphabetical order) AT&T, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, OpenText , and SAP. I also turned up two new companies I'd never heard of before: Resilient and Vyew.

Note that the patents in this story are not necessarily directly connected to products such as Cisco Quad, IBM Lotus Live or SAP Streamwork. (Though of course it makes sense that each vendor will apply the respective methodologies they've developed.)

Here's a summary of 13 interesting patents and patent applications, which can be group under the umbrella of collaboration technologies. You can also go directly to the companion slideshow to click through screen grabs from the patent and patent applications.

1) Cisco: Virtual Reality Meets Telepresence

When it comes Quad vendor Cisco's Enteprise 2.0 intellectual property, one could predict a mashup of a social connectivity and communications. That's precisely what's at play in patent application 20090307189, "Asynchronous Workflow Participation Within An Immersive Collaboration Environment."

Unlike most Enterprise 2.0-oriented patent applications, this one expends a lot of ink talking about virtual and augmented reality. Mostly, that seems to be a fancy way to position the teleconferencing that's the basis for its collaborative connectivity.

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