In January this
year, I had the pleasure of experiencing the release of Lotus Notes

version 5 at Lotusphere held at Orlando. The excitement and exhilaration
across the Disney quaysides, amongst the 10,000 mostly American
attendees in half pants, was about the greatly enhanced levels of
collaboration and workflow across a Lotus community. But with a
change. Lotus had replaced the front-end to a browser look-and-feel
that allowed a personalized workplace to be built up easily and

And then in
June this year we had the release of Office 2000. Again, a leapfrog
development in terms of levels of file exchange and file interchange
for desktop productivity. Making it easy for you and I to use Excel,
Word, PPT and HTML file formats seamlessly across a TCP/IP or internet
backbone without wondering too much about conversions and so on.
If this has not taken the wind out of us its because most multinationals
and Indian corporates are still catching their breath after transitioning
from Office 95 to Office 97.

But now there
was food for thought. In the months after Office 2000 and during
the mind numbing toils of DQ Top 20 in July and August, I struggled
to sharpen the focus on what was going on behind the scenes in the
workshops of software majors. I speculated with Microsoft employees
on Windows 2000. That it would unleash a framework of collaboration
across the web, putting client server applications and computing
forever to rest. And they smiled and said maybe, maybe, maybe.

And then there
was the pleasure of First previewed to the Indian press
in October and officially launched across Asia at SAPphire in November-the
cat was now out of the bag, the wind gusting and sails unfurled.
I remember how I almost got off my seat at the preview, surprised
and demanding to know how these three products were so similar in
functionality and originality. And SAP had nodded-Yes, there is
a collaboration with Microsoft. And at SAPphire, Peter Zencke, architect
of, remarked at this question from me, "They are
all the same".

The writing
is on the wall and after it could never have been clearer.
The workplace as SAP describes it is going to the browser, set up
the way you want it. Whether it is home, business or enterprise
applications, the browser is very soon going to be a confiding soulmate
on your desktop. Collaboration between competitors, suppliers, partners,
customers is very soon going to be as instinctive as browsing on
the web and file access and exchange as seamless as email. As SAP
describes it, the real business environment will transform to the
virtual marketplace.

Your business
transition to this virtual market place will be as hitch-free as
your ability to migrate to web based applications. As trouble-free
as your ability to accept the ecom portal as the marketplace of
tomorrow. And vendors are making it easy for you. is a
powerful development linking back-end automation based on the R/3
engine to your every day browser.

What is the
message for the Indian enterprise community? Yes, we know the web
is still not the best of places in the country. But the disadvantage
of shying away from web-based collaboration and web-based applications
is likely to be more serious than waiting and waiting for bandwidth
and connectivity to improve. On the web, the first mover advantage
and built up learning experience is the ‘killer’. There is still
no substitute for that.


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