This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

This video-centric startup continues pushing
the envelope on team collaboration.

Startup Biba yesterday announced Version 3.0 of its collaboration tool, including H.323/SIP connectivity for room video conference systems and a host of other features.

If you’re not familiar with Biba, you can think of it in comparison to next-generation collaboration tools such as Cisco Spark and Unify Circuit. Like those tools, Biba is aimed at changing the way people — particularly those who are highly mobile — work.

I’m still not sure what to call products of this ilk, but No Jitter blogger Dave Michels, a TalkingPointz analyst, has used the term “any-time communications” to indicate their synchronous and asynchronous capabilities. At last week’s Cisco Partner Summit, Rowan Trollope, SVP of Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group, called Spark the right collaboration tool for the agile worker. No matter what the name, these products take a bit of getting used to — but once do, you’ll see how much easier work gets with them and how different they are from traditional UC.

While always video-centric, earlier versions of the Biba tool limited video to mobile devices. Now with Biba 3.0, mobile workers can connect to H.323/SIP-based room systems through a new feature called Biba Video Rooms. Given the momentum around mobile video, Biba’s decision to align itself with the trend certainly makes sense.

Over the years, companies of all sizes have invested billions of dollars in in-room video hardware. But endpoint utilization is abysmally low. A number of technical issues are to blame, most notable of which is that these systems can be intimidating and difficult to use.

The Biba in-room video UI

With Biba Video Rooms, businesses can use the high-quality video capabilities from the Biba client and leverage the investment they’ve made over the years in traditional room systems. Another benefit is that the Biba Video Rooms capability delivers a much better, “Biba like” interface on the room system. Biba treats the video system like it’s a big mobile endpoint, so connecting to the Biba session is similar to the experience of joining via a phone. Biba Video Rooms will work with any H.323/SIP-enabled device, including those from Cisco, Lifesize, Logitech, and Polycom.

This is just the latest in a long line of video improvements Biba has had over the last year. In addition to the room connectivity, the company has added features like the ability to stream 16 simultaneous video sessions and HD video with dynamic bandwidth manipulation.

In addition to the room connectivity, other 3.0 enhancements include:

  • Chat search – Biba introduced chat search last month for Windows endpoints, but now offers full chat search on both Windows and Max OS X devices. The interface will show a tab on the right for search results, which will include the snippets of the message that are in the search term.
  • Favorite contacts – Biba 3.0 gives users the ability to create a shortlist of their most frequently contacted people. They can “favorite” a contact by tapping on a star next to the person’s name. The favorite list is changeable at any time, which can be particularly useful when working on projects. I know my top 5 list of most frequently contacted people next month might be completely different than it is today!
  • Full-screen meeting window – Prior to 3.0, users couldn’t actually fill the window with the meeting session. Not being able to run a video window at full size can lead to distractions, as people see instant messages and email pop up. Now, the meeting window can fill the entire screen, hiding all the activity in the background. This is important when projecting the meeting window where a single, clean window works best. As part of this release, Biba supports dual-monitor set-ups so a worker could project a full screen and still have the laptop free for other activities (like doing email instead of paying attention!).
  • Improved browser screen-share experience – Screen sharing via a browser is becoming increasingly important in the era of mobile working. Prior to 3.0, browser sharing was OK but not great with the Biba tool. With an updated interface, Biba 3.0 improves the quality and stability of the screen-sharing experience.

With all the activity in this new industry segment, it’s clear the UC market is changing. I’m glad to see startups like Biba pushing the incumbents to get more innovative. Biba 3.0 video ties together the new world with legacy communications so businesses can try out Biba while still being able to use the technology that’s currently deployed in the organization.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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