Archive for February, 2008

Mozilla Messaging launches to move Thunderbird forward

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Mozilla Messaging, a subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, launched today and stated that their "first priority is to help drive the evolution of the Thunderbird email program."

Their CEO, David Ascher wrote a detailed blog post about the new company.

Working on "integrated calendaring" is one of their key initial priorities.  That’s something that makes a ton of sense as messaging has become so much more important for people than just exchanging standalone messages.  This is sort of block and tackle stuff, but a very important step in making the right messaging client.

Moving forward, they have a lot of plans for addressing integration issues for "someone using multiple email addresses, multiple instant messaging
systems, IRC, reading and writing on blogs, using VoIP, SMS, and the
like."  Bringing context to broad sets of communications across various mediums is right in line with the way I see the future of messaging headed.

"Finding out what’s important or new was obvious?" is the type of longer-term issue they are dealing with.  I look forward to sharing some of what we have learned about this over the past few years at ClearContext with the folks at Mozilla Messaging.

It’s excited to see more and more innovation in and around the email and messaging space.  Email is not going away, but is in dire need of a next generation of clients and solutions to deal with it effectively and take full advantage of all the information exchanged.

How would MSFT-YHOO impact innovation in email?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Tim O’Reilly and Bill Tancer have commented on the email, especially webmail, market share that a combined Microsoft and Yahoo would have.  So what does that mean for the email landscape and innovation in this area?

Here are some numbers in terms of seats looking at the email assets of both companies:

#1 corporate email: MS Outlook/Exchange >100 million seats worldwide (Radicati)
#1 Webmail: Yahoo Mail >250 million seats worldwide (TechCrunch)
#2 Webmail: MS Live/Hotmail >200 million seats worldwide (TechCrunch)
open source: Yahoo Zimbra >8 million paid seats worldwide (Zimbra)

That’s about as broad a spectrum of dominance as you can get in a market.

Microsoft makes over a billion dollars a year selling Exchange server according to Radicati.  Zimbra was created to provide an open source competitor to Exchange that could beat it based on price, deployment cost, hardware requirements, etc. –  basically all element total cost of ownership.  On top of that, Zimbra has really been innovating in areas like integrating their email client with web services.

If this deal happens, I’d expect Microsoft’s focus to be on two things when it comes to email.

1: Continuing to focus on the things that lead to the cash cow – Exchange Server sales.  Things that IT decision makers care about like server management, scalability, reliability, archiving, backup, etc.  Microsoft probably has plenty of work left in areas like that if companies like Teneros are getting $40m in funding for a product to keep email running when Exchange goes down. 

2: Figuring out more and better ways to optimize ad serving across all those web mailboxes as part of their overall fight with Google in the online advertising market.

Neither of those focus areas hold a lot of promise for a lot of continued investment in the types of next-generation email solutions that Zimbra was coming out with, plus the features arms race on the client side between Yahoo/Microsoft/AOL/Gmail likely just slowed down quite a bit.

All of that means a lot of opportunity for ClearContext and others in our space who are focusing on new and more powerful ways for people to deal with overwhelming volumes of inbound email and other information. 

2008’s Problem of the Year: Information Overload

Monday, February 4th, 2008

OK, so still catching up on the blogging front, but I’m getting there.

At the end of 2007, analyst firm Basex predicted the biggest problem of the year for 2008: Information Overload.  Well, you won’t find any disagreement here – in a world where people continue to be bombarded with more and more pieces of information via more and more different mediums of communication, information overload continues to be the single largest drag on productivity in the business world.

The NY Times and ArsTechnica blogged about some of the specific findings in the Basex research and the broader problem people are facing trying to deal with all this information.

Michael Sampson provided a contrarian viewpoint, claiming that this isn’t "information overload" but simply more complex communication coordination challenges (yeah, I did that on purpose) and that all this communication back and forth is actually what comprises the core of a lot of people’s primary work responsibility. 

While Michael has some valid points, I think they are largely issues of semantics, and he really avoids what I consider the main point.  Many business workers today are simply faced with more inbound information than they can deal with given the tools they have at their disposal to deal with this information.  Yet, these communications, as Michael states, are vital to their work.  That’s what’s behind the $650 Billion drain on productivity that Basex is highlighting, and information overload is a term that defines the problem very succinctly and accurately.

I just posted my email thesis that touches on a number of these points.  There’s no question people face information overload and it’s a major problem for them.  And addressing that problem is going to require new ways to look at information in a broader context across various silos of data and various mediums of communication.  Only when tools (both sender and recipient side) to address the information overload are in place will people really be ready to start thinking about some of the broader knowledge sharing and communication issues Michael mentions.