Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Using ProtoSphere to Lync up to the future of business collaboration: The archive

There's more than one way to skin a webinar -- depending on how you like to get content. In the case of our recent webinar with Microsoft, we've shared the slides and audio so far. And today, we bring you the complete archive.


(In case it doesn't appear on your screen, the recording ID is 5925 and the recording key is ATT5925.)

For those of you who missed it, the webinar covered how life sciences professionals can use ProtoSphere and Lync together for virtual collaboration. Les Jordan, Chief Technology Strategist for Microsoft Life Sciences, brought us up to date on what Microsoft has been doing in the life sciences arena lately. And I presented some of the major ways life sciences professionals can improve collaboration and productivity by combining Lync and our ProtoSphere virtual immersive environment.

We also have the webinar transcript in the works, and will be sharing that with you on the blog soon.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Using ProtoSphere to Lync up to the future of business collaboration: The podcast

Last week we shared with you the slide deck from our webinar with Microsoft about how life sciences companies can use ProtoSphere and Lync together for virtual collaboration. Today we have the complete audio from our webinar for you. You can stream it from your computer, or feel free to download it, save it, and pop it on your iPod to listen to on the road or in your car.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

TMCnet's Tom Keating says ProtoSphere is "definitely worth checking out"

I met Tom Keating when I was in New York City in November for Microsoft's Lync launch event. Tom has been at the front lines of the Internet telephony/VoIP industry since the mid-90s. Today he's the CTO of Technology Marketing Corporation (TMC) and blogs at the company's TMCnet.com.

In New York, Tom and I got to talking about how ProtoSphere integrates with Lync. I told him about the audio experience, and how Lync improves the way you can collaborate in ProtoSphere. We got down to some technical details on ProtoSphere's data visualization capabilities and how you can leverage Lync's desktop sharing capabilities in ProtoSphere's 3-D space.

Tom posted our conversation in a Q&A on TMCnet yesterday. He also included his personal take on ProtoSphere's Lync integration. He writes, "Gartner named ProtonMedia Cool Vendor for 2010 for Collaboration. I second that award! Very cool technology definitely worth checking out." Click over to his post and find out why.

Nice meeting you Tom, and thanks for the review!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Using ProtoSphere to Lync up to the future of business collaboration: The slides

Our webinar with Microsoft's Les Jordan went great on Tuesday. We had some good discussion on ways life sciences professionals can use Microsoft Lync and ProtoSphere together for virtual collaboration. But even though the webinar is over, we have a host of resources we're planning to share coming out of it. So no worries in case you missed it!

First up is our slide deck. It contains a break down of some of the major ways life sciences professionals can improve collaboration and productivity by combining Lync and our ProtoSphere virtual immersive environment. It also gives the main benefits that ProtoSphere is providing our life sciences customers, including key metrics from our work with Merck.

You can view it below. Also feel free to download it and share with your colleagues. Check back soon for more from this webinar, including the archive, transcript, and other resources.

ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010 beta now available

Last month we introduced ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010, our latest version of ProtoSphere which works with Microsoft Lync Server 2010. The beta version of ProtoSphere Lync Edition is now available for you to try for free.

You'll be able to test all of our new functionality first hand, including our crystal-clear VoIP, outbound calling to any number, always-on VoIP, echo cancellation, and more.

Our beta also includes our new standard suite of zones and a set of special demo zones geared specifically for life sciences professionals.

As always, we welcome your feedback and ideas! So download ProtoSphere Lync Edition beta, play around, and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Webinar today: How to use ProtoSphere to Lync up to the future of business collaboration

Hey folks, just a friendly reminder to make sure you're at your computer at 2 p.m. EST today for our joint webinar with Les Jordan, Chief Technology Strategist for Microsoft Life Sciences. It will be a valuable learning experience for anyone involved in life sciences sales, marketing, technology, training, and compliance.

Les and I will be presenting ways that life sciences professionals can use ProtoSphere and Microsoft Lync together for virtual collaboration, including:
  • R&D collaboration and virtual poster sessions
  • KOL events, AdBoards, virtual speaker programs, MedEd, SME events, and thought leader activities
  • CME/virtual learning
  • Sales automation
Attendees will be among the first life sciences professionals to see how these technologies work together in our new ProtoSphere release, ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010, and discover how they can use it in their organization.

If you haven't registered for our webinar yet, there's still time to sign up. For more details on the webinar, turn to our previous post about it. See you soon!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Warm welcome to John Reed!

Our ProtonMedia team has grown by one. John Reed has joined us as our new Vice President of Sales. He will lead and oversee all sales and partnership program activities for ProtoSphere.

We're all excited to have John on board with us. He brings 25 years of enterprise technology sales experience to the table, having worked with companies including ASG Software; Ramco Systems Corporation; Astea International; i2 Technologies; and other firms providing CRM, ERP, and various enterprise software-based technology solutions.

We issued a press release Thursday announcing John's addition, which I thought I'd include below if you'd like more background information on John and what he'll be doing for us. We hope John will join us on our blog soon too, so keep your eyes peeled for his inaugural musings! Welcome, John!



John Reed Joins ProtonMedia as VP of Sales

Twenty-five-year technology sales executive will now lead the company’s sales and partner activities

LANSDALE, Pa.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Technology sales veteran John Reed has joined ProtonMedia as the company’s new Vice President of Sales. Reed, who has 25 years of experience in sales and management, will lead and oversee all sales and partnership program activities for ProtonMedia’s flagship ProtoSphere virtual collaboration environment. Reed comes to ProtonMedia following the company’s recent introduction of ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010, its latest version of ProtoSphere which works with Microsoft Lync Server 2010.

“We’ve had a year of milestones, winning two renowned industry awards, launching and growing both our partnership network and Executive Advisory Board, and continuing to release innovative new functionality in ProtoSphere,” says Ron Burns, CEO of ProtonMedia. “John brings crucial enterprise technology sales experience and skills to ProtonMedia that will help make 2011 our most successful year yet. His strong management background and knowledge will be instrumental in continuing to grow our company through the new year and beyond.”

Prior to joining ProtonMedia, Reed served as Area Vice President for ASG Software, where he grew bookings for the area by 625 percent over the past four years. He has also held executive sales management roles at Ramco Systems Corporation; Astea International; i2 Technologies; and other firms providing CRM, ERP, and various enterprise software-based technology solutions. Reed holds a master’s degree in marketing from Temple University and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from The Pennsylvania State University.

ABOUT PROTONMEDIA

ProtonMedia is the developer of ProtoSphere, the market-leading virtual collaboration environment for the high-performance workplace, and the #1 virtual environment for collaborative PLM in life sciences. ProtoSphere’s virtual environment provides an arsenal of business-focused collaboration and communication tools that help companies accelerate decision-making and raise productivity, improving workplace performance overall. The company is a Gartner “Cool Vendor in the High-Performance Workplace” for 2010. Its customers include some of the world’s most respected brands, including AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck Inc., BP, Chevron, Duke University, Deloitte, TIAA-CREF, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing. A trial version of ProtoSphere can be downloaded at http://protonmedia.com/trial-download/. For more information, visit http://www.protonmedia.com/.

Contacts

ProtonMedia
Press contact:
Gregory FCA
Jessica Attanasio, 610-228-2112
Jessica@GregoryFCA.com

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Webinar reminder: How to use ProtoSphere to Lync up to the future of business collaboration

Reminder for everyone in the life sciences industry! Don't miss out on our webinar next week with Microsoft's Les Jordan.

Les and I will show you how you can use ProtoSphere and Microsoft Lync together to create a virtual workplace that combines the highest quality VoIP and data sharing capabilities. We'll show you specific ways you can use the technologies for a better approach to:
  • R&D collaboration and virtual poster sessions
  • KOL events, AdBoards, virtual speaker programs, MedEd, SME events, and thought leader activities
  • CME/virtual learning
  • Sales automation
We'll also have a Q&A session where we'll open the floor to your questions and ideas. It'll be a fun, informative, interactive webinar, and a must-attend for life sciences professionals in IT, product management, and marketing.

Once again, here are the nitty-gritty details to attend:

For: CIOs; CTOs; CMOs; CSOs; innovations teams; product, brand, and franchise managers; business decision makers; regulatory and clinical managers; Microsoft SI partners

What: Leveraging Microsoft Lync and ProtonMedia ProtoSphere in Life Sciences: A New Dimension in Virtual Collaboration for the High Performance Workplace

When: Tuesday, Dec. 14 from 2 p.m. EST to 3 p.m. EST

Presenters: Ron Burns, CEO, ProtonMedia
Les Jordan, Chief Technology Strategist, Microsoft Life Sciences

Register online now.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why face-to-face meetings are here to stay

Sure we're advocates of virtual meetings. But we're not foolish enough to think a day will come -- soon or ever -- when face-to-face meetings go away. That's just not going to happen. And the reasons are simple.

They are absolutely the best way to build relationships and a sense of community, create and mold a culture, foster team spirit, motivate and recognize workers, and drive that overall deep connection at the core of our being.

We work our best when we're connected, in sync, and supporting one another's efforts. But those face-to-face work sessions we rely upon are coming at significantly increasing costs.

Therein lies the challenge statement. How do we remain connected, leverage those relationships, grow productivity (individual and collective), increase collaboration, and sustain the overall interactive goodness in a cost-conscious environment?

These opposing forces -- cost reductions and increasing collaboration -- place a premium on sustainability, a best practice designed to reinforce, protect, preserve, and expand upon the value gained by every in-person meeting.

Having face-to-face meetings without a sustainability plan is wasteful, leading to fleeting knowledge, transient understanding, countless repetition and do-overs, vanishing returns, and lost value. And that's where a virtual collaboration platform comes to the fore.

Highly interactive virtual meetings are an effective means of mastering initiatives launched in face-to-face meetings, such as new materials, approaches, and skills. They allow each participant to maintain and even expand the sense of connection, camaraderie, comprehension, interaction, and contribution, while delivering sustainability.

How? Virtual meetings enable us to communicate and collaborate in ways that enhance what we do in person. Take two examples of typical meetings held in a virtual immersive environment.

1) In advance of a face-to-face meeting, virtual meeting(s) effectively build anticipation, interest, preparation, and excitement.

2) After a face-to-face meeting, forming virtual team and special-purposed subject matter rooms, coupled with 24/7 persistence of content, provides a place to reinforce, practice, and continue skills development, as well as openly discuss and share ideas.

Given today's constant pressures to reduce costs, more face-to-face meetings are just not a valid option. Reducing the number and/or duration of face-to-face meetings creates risk to overall effectiveness, and is an equally invalid option.

The truth is, in-person and virtual meetings both have their own merits and advantages. Perhaps that's why so many companies are integrating virtual meetings with their in-person meetings. Some tasks are better accomplished in person. Others are more effectively sustained and achieved virtually.

Merging both in a cohesive strategy can bring synergistic value. Each type of meeting can increase the effectiveness of the other.

Face-to-face meetings are more effective when the pre and post activities surrounding it directly support and sustain the messages and materials discussed.

Virtual meetings benefit from the relationships and initial sense of connection built during face-to-face encounters. A virtual environment's 24/7 accessibility and persistence of content bring a level of convenience and ease to planned and serendipitous meetings that, even with unlimited funding and travel privileges, cannot be achieved with in-person meetings.

In today's competitive and cost-sensitive world, moving forward with a single meeting methodology limits the value and advantages that can be achieved compared to a well-thought-out strategy combining and leveraging both face-to-face and virtual sessions.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Karl Kapp weighs impact of ProtoSphere's new Lync integration

Over the weekend I was talking to Dr. Karl Kapp about how ProtoSphere now works with Microsoft Lync Server 2010. He put finger to keyboard today and posted his reaction on his blog.

Karl takes a three-pronged look at the impact of ProtoSphere's Lync integration, including from a functionality, enterprise, and industry perspective. Flip over to his blog to see how ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010 fairs in Karl's eyes. As always, thanks for the analysis and insights, Karl!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

CIO magazine examines whether virtual collaboration really works in business

Merck's use of ProtoSphere to hold a virtual poster session continues to gain media attention. Merck scientists recently shared their research about using ProtoSphere with writer Stephanie Overby, who reported the findings in CIO magazine. You can read her article now online, or, for those who still like to hold cold hard copy in their hands :), in the latest issue of CIO magazine.

Stephanie shares Merck's thoughts and analysis on why the company wanted to hold a virtual poster session, why it decided to use ProtoSphere, and how it built the environment and ran the event. She also included what Merck learned from the deployment, and its advice for making virtual poster sessions work.

"After the event, 83 percent of users said access to the virtual posters’ information was the same as or better than in the physical world. More than half said the virtual symposium overall was more valuable than the in-person version ..." reports Stephanie.

Many other interesting results and takeaways can be found in the CIO article. Thanks to Stephanie and the Merck team for sharing the findings!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Webinar: How to use ProtoSphere to Lync up to the future of business collaboration

You probably know we introduced our new ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010 the other week. The platform uses Microsoft Lync's VoIP technology as the heart of its communications features, giving ProtoSphere the best-sounding and most scalable VoIP of any virtual collaboration environment.

We've showed you the new features of ProtoSphere Lync Edition, including audio samples so you can hear just how crystal clear the sound is.

And now, Microsoft's Les Jordan and I will be presenting a webinar to show you some specific ways life sciences organizations can use Lync and ProtoSphere together to cut costs, boost productivity, and foster collaboration.

You can REGISTER NOW to attend our webinar, which will cover how life sciences organizations can bring unified communication and virtual collaboration technology together in one solution, powered by Microsoft Lync Server 2010 and ProtoSphere.

You'll discover how these technologies work together to create a virtual workplace that combines the highest quality VoIP and data sharing capabilities so teams can go beyond conference calls, to collaborating and communicating in real time.

Les and I will show you how life sciences organizations can use these technologies together for:
  • R&D collaboration and virtual poster sessions
  • KOL events, AdBoards, virtual speaker programs, MedEd, SME events, and thought leader activities
  • CME/virtual learning
  • Sales automation
We'll also have a Q&A session where we'll open the floor to your questions and ideas. It'll be a fun, informative, interactive webinar, and a must-attend for life sciences professionals in IT, product management, and marketing.

Here are the nitty-gritty details to attend:

For: CIOs; CTOs; CMOs; CSOs; innovations teams; product, brand, and franchise managers; business decision makers; regulatory and clinical managers; Microsoft SI partners

What: Leveraging Microsoft Lync and ProtonMedia ProtoSphere in Life Sciences: A New Dimension in Virtual Collaboration for the High Performance Workplace

When: Tuesday, Dec. 14 from 2 p.m. EST to 3 p.m. EST

Presenters: Ron Burns, CEO, ProtonMedia
Les Jordan, Chief Technology Strategist, Microsoft Life Sciences

Register online now.

See you there!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

If you had to give up all but one gadget this Thanksgiving, what would it be?

Let's be honest, folks. We are a bunch of geeks. Don't get me wrong. I don't mean that in a negative way. It's just that the human race has been shaped so dramatically by technology that gadgets seem to have become a way of life. Cell phones. GPS's. Digital cameras. iPhones. iPods. iPads. Ay ay ay!

You might in fact define your geekiness by the number of gadgets you own, from your smart phone right down to the USB flash drive you keep on your key chain, because, hey, you never know when you just might need to transfer a digital file.

But tomorrow is not about gadgets. Tomorrow is about family and friends and good old-fashioned togetherness. Gadgets have no part of the Thanksgiving tradition. Yet, for many of us, the thought of leaving home without our laptop or iPad might be too hard to swallow (not counting the oddly colored mash that your great great aunt brings to the table). How will you survive Thanksgiving without your gadgets???

Well, what if we make a deal? Rather than quitting cold turkey, what if you could have one of your beloved gadgets with you? If you had to give up all but one gadget for Thanksgiving, what one would it be, and why?

And while you ponder that food for thought, I'd like to wish everyone a healthy and happy Thanksgiving holiday!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to make virtual speaker programs work

Speaker programs are down 30 percent or more at most pharma companies.
Like many aspects of life sciences today, speaker programs are being cut due to budgetary constraints and the tightening regulatory landscape.

I read a recent article by Bill Cooney in PharmaExec that highlighted this trend, reporting that speaker program activity is down 30 percent or more at most pharmaceutical companies.

Many of the figures and trends that Bill reports align with what we're seeing among the life sciences companies we work with. Travel and logistics costs for remote speaker events are a major area of spend that companies are taking a big ax to.

Access to subject matter experts for in-person events is also becoming increasingly difficult due to new regulations that curtail potential for conflicts of interest between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

For instance, states such as Massachusetts and Vermont ban medical device companies from giving physicians most gifts, including compensation for their travel, lodging, and meals. And if the pending Physician Payment Sunshine Act (PPSA) is passed, it would require medical product companies in all states to report physician payments and gifts worth more than $10.

These factors are driving some life sciences companies to hold speaker programs virtually. It can significantly reduce or eliminate travel costs, and it can be inherently compliant with transfer of value regulations, such as compensation for meals.

In his article, Bill discusses some ways for making virtual speaker programs work. He highlights the importance of sharing content that addresses evidence-based medicine and other clinical topics, and having strong sales force support.

I agree with Bill's advice. We're seeing similar takeaways among the life sciences companies we're working with. I'd encourage you to flip over to Bill's article for his details on these points.

We're also seeing a few other best practices emerging among our customers in this arena that I thought would be great to share. Here are some things they've told us have contributed to making their virtual speaker programs work:

Use a platform that supports high interactivity and engagement. You could say I'm biased because I am with a technology vendor. However, I'm mentioning this point not to plug our product, but because it's something we've heard from many of our customers. The technology decision is crucial to successful virtual speaker programs. Our customers have found it's important to use a technology that's not too complicated, and that provides a high level of interactivity and engagement. This helps foster adoption of the platform, and enables them to meet their objectives of improved knowledge sharing and knowledge retention.

Hold internal sales meetings in the platform. One of the best ways to teach your sales force how to use the new technology is to hold internal meetings in the same platform you're holding outbound KOL and SME activities. This helps the sales team become very familiar with the tool for their own training and internal communications, so they are knowledgeable of the platform when they use it with their customers.

Integrate virtual activities into a holistic events program. We're seeing our customers build integrated events programs comprised of both virtual and in-person events, depending on their business need and the task at hand. For instance, some are finding their virtual environment works well for quick product updates and other more frequent touches. From a time and cost perspective, it's a no-brainer to get 12, 15, or 20 people together in a virtual space for an interactive training update or survey, as opposed to making plans to fly them to a remote location, coordinating their schedules, booking flights/hotels, etc.

Bring organizational knowledge into the environment. Our customers are integrating content, most notably SharePoint resources, into their virtual environment. SharePoint is becoming the standard for document management in life sciences, if it hasn't already. Sharing and collaborating on these resources is a crucial part of KOL and SME programs, making it an imperative to have them available in their virtual workplace.

Measure results and make adjustments. Our customers are showing a high level of interest in surveying to understand what worked and what didn't with their virtual speaker program approaches. We're seeing more customers use the polling function in ProtoSphere, which can be customized with a series of questions to gather information on user experience and feedback. This information is crucial to improving their virtual speaker programs.

These are the some of the common pieces of feedback we're hearing from our customers. If you've participated in a virtual speaker program, what have you found to work and not work? Anything you'd recommend?

Market showing enthusiasm for ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010

It was exciting to introduce ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010 last week. Even more exciting is seeing the market's enthusiasm for the new platform.

While I was at Microsoft's Lync launch event last week, I met Simon Booth, an IT consultant who's focused on UC development. We talked about ProtoSphere Lync Edition, and how it works with Lync Server 2010. Simon shared his feedback on ProtoSphere on his blog yesterday, calling it "one of the most exciting things I saw in the Lync launch."


Simon's perspective stems from his experience as a remote worker, which he's been for most of his career. In his post, he wrote about his long-term vision for unified communications, in which immersive telepresence is combined with a remote virtual experience.

It's an interesting and noteworthy impression of the future of UC and virtual environments, and I'd encourage you to read through his post. Thanks, Simon, for featuring us!

Mike Dolan, Editor of FierceVoIP, also recently highlighted ProtoSphere Lync Edition in his round up of what he found were notable technology announcements coming out of the Lync launch. He called ProtoSphere Lync Edition "one you don't see everyday." Thanks for including us, Mike! Also see what other technologies caught his eye by flipping over to his article.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bill Gates' star appearance from the Lync launch event

One of the biggest highlights from yesterday's Lync launch event in New York City was Bill Gates' star appearance. He helped ring in the launch of Lync in perhaps the most fitting way. He appeared on stage -- inside Lync. In case you missed it, here's Bill talking about Lync and his vision for the platform.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A conference call is not collaboration

Our introduction of ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010 marks a significant milestone for us. It realizes a vision that's been years in the making. It takes us beyond the conference call to real-time, natural communication and collaboration.

For a humorous reminder of what a conference call is like today, you needn't look further than David Grady's "The Conference Call" video.



"The Conference Call" has garnered a lot of attention lately, and while it does evoke a few laughs, it serves a bigger purpose. It shows us what's wrong with the way we try to communicate.

We're wasting a lot of time and fundamentally not getting anything done. Grady's video makes it glaringly obvious why conference calls are not collaboration. We're struggling to connect in the first place -- let alone share knowledge and information.

Microsoft Lync (formerly known as Communications Server, Communications Online, and Communicator) is one of the most widely used enterprise unified communications platforms. Similarly, SharePoint is one of the most widely used enterprise content and process management platforms today. We view Microsoft Lync, coupled with SharePoint, as the operating system of the enterprise -- the Microsoft unified communications and collaboration stack.

Our customers in life sciences and other industries are using SharePoint and Lync within training, learning, compliance, sales, human capital management, and product life cycle management. These platforms are crucial technologies that need to be available in virtual collaboration scenarios.

By building on top of the Microsoft unified communications and collaboration stack, we ensure Microsoft users can seamlessly use their Lync functionality and work with their SharePoint resources in ProtoSphere. This extends their Microsoft investment, enabling them to take advantage of their Microsoft technology in new ways to cut travel costs, improve productivity, and foster collaboration.

When we introduced SharePoint support into ProtoSphere last year, we were half way to realizing our vision. Today, with the introduction of Lync integration, we have achieved it.

Today marks the launch of our new, always-on virtual collaboration environment, where you can beam in and out of a work space, and put the right people and the right data together at just the right moment.

In this new video below, recently shot in Redmond, I describe ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010, and our view on how to move beyond the conference call to real-time communication and collaboration. Adding Lync's VoIP technology to ProtoSphere enables visual conferencing, tied to visual and natural collaboration. It's our approach to next-generation communication and collaboration.

Introducing ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010

Today I join you from the Microsoft Lync launch event in New York City. As Microsoft celebrates the launch of its latest platform, I'm very excited to announce that we're marking a milestone of our own -- the introduction of our new ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010.

Microsoft Lync Server 2010, Microsoft's latest enterprise class unified communications (UC) platform, is the heart of ProtoSphere's communication features in this release. This gives ProtoSphere the best-sounding and most scalable Voice over IP (VoIP) of any virtual collaboration environment.

If you're a regular reader of our blog, you probably know we've been rolling out feature peeks of our Lync integration, which we said would be part of ProtoSphere 1.6. We've decided to rename ProtoSphere 1.6 as ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010, since Lync is a major part of this new release.

In addition, we will continue to offer ProtoSphere 1.5 to those customers who have not yet made the commitment to a full unified communications roll out.

I'll be sharing more about why our Lync integration is important to enterprise users, so watch our blog. In the meantime, you can find more details on our ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010 release in our press release below.

To follow all our Lync-related coverage, pull up our Lync tag. Also be sure to see our library of other resources about ProtoSphere Lync Edition, including our feature peeks, data sheet, and Microsoft Partner Solution Brief.




ProtonMedia's ProtoSphere Works with Microsoft Lync Server 2010

ProtoSphere now provides an immersive collaboration layer for Microsoft Corp.'s latest enterprise class unified communications platform

LANSDALE, Pa. -- BUSINESS WIRE -- Have you heard? Word on the street is that ProtonMedia's ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010 now has the best-sounding and most scalable Voice over IP (VoIP) of any virtual collaboration environment on the market. And if you haven't heard, it's probably because you're not using the virtual immersive environment that works with Microsoft Lync Server 2010, Microsoft Corp.'s latest enterprise class unified communications (UC) platform, which is now at the heart of ProtoSphere's communication features. This gives ProtoSphere a quality, security-enhanced, and scalable VoIP technology in a 3-D virtual immersive environment.

"ProtoSphere is an enterprise collaboration application that uses the power of the Microsoft Lync extensible platform," says Shaun Pierce, general manager, Microsoft Lync. "ProtonMedia's ProtoSphere provides a unique virtual collaboration solution for the high-performance workplace on top of Microsoft Lync."

New Microsoft Partner Solution Brief

As you might know, ProtoSphere is the only 3-D virtual environment for businesses built entirely and exclusively on the Microsoft stack. ProtoSphere is seamlessly integrated with Microsoft Active Directory, Office 2010, SharePoint Server 2010, SQL Server, and now, Lync Server 2010.

Our new Microsoft Partner Solution Brief breaks down this integration in more detail, including how ProtoSphere now works with Lync Server.


For more about our Microsoft partnership, we have additional information on our website.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our Ferrari test drive at WinConnections 2010

Lots of industry conferences have giveaways and prizes for their attendees. But probably the best one I've seen over the years is a Ferrari test drive.

Microsoft dished it out at the WinConnections 2010 show. And even better, our own Tom Bevivino was the lucky winner.

Was I jealous? Yes. Did I think Tom looked scared sitting behind the wheel? Yes. Was the Ferrari test drive everything Tom imagined and more? Most definitely.

Of course, I had to record the experience.



Unfortunately, the rules and regs prevented us from recording Tom actually driving. But believe me, Tom looked every bit the part of a Ferrari test driver.

Thanks again to the folks at Microsoft for making it happen!

Friday, November 12, 2010

ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010 Feature Peek: 15 zones for virtual meetings and collaboration

Our standard environment in our next release of ProtoSphere includes 15 zones to support the range of activities and events that companies hold. Zones include:
  • Courtyard
  • Atrium
  • War Room
  • Breakout Room
  • Two Classrooms
  • Four Conference Rooms
  • Poster Hall
  • Three Theaters
  • Large Presentation Auditorium
The basic ProtoSphere implementation can support up to 500 simultaneous users, and up to 100 users per room/zone. This can be scaled by adding virtual or physical servers.

More details on each zone can be found in the presentation below. It includes screen shots of each zone, along with a description of their functions and features.
Our team is continuing to put the finishing touches on these spaces, so what you see here will have some more functionality in our upcoming release. But this provides a good sense of the new look and feel of the environment.

UPDATE 11/17/10: We've renamed ProtoSphere 1.6 as ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Microsoft's Harold Wong demos new Lync features at WinConnections 2010

I met Harold Wong while mingling about the show floor at WinConnections 2010. Harold is an IT evangelist for Microsoft, and, according to his bio on his TechNet blog, a self-confessed geek.

Well, there was no shortage of excitement from Harold as he showed me some of the cool new features of Lync 2010. Take a look at what he loves about Lync, and its improvements over OCS.

Monday, November 8, 2010

How Lync got its name and what's next for Microsoft enterprise users

We're back from WinConnections 2010! The show went great. Our Sales Engineer Tom and I were busy meeting and networking with Microsoft users, and giving them a sneak peek of what's to come in ProtoSphere and the new ways it will integrate with Microsoft Lync technology.

One of the biggest highlights for me was meeting Shaun Pierce, General Manager for Microsoft’s Lync Server Division. Shaun and his team head up development and testing of Microsoft's new Lync Server platform.

Shaun gave a great presentation last Tuesday, and afterward, I was able to snag him for a brief interview. He told me about how Microsoft landed on Lync as the new name for OCS, what he thinks is the biggest tech trend on enterprise users' radars today, and how Microsoft plans to respond.



Thanks for the interview, Shaun. More from WinConnections to come!

You can follow all of our coverage by bookmarking our WinConnections 2010 tag. You can also follow all of our Lync news and updates by bookmarking our Lync tag.

Friday, November 5, 2010

ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010 Super Feature Peek: Microsoft Lync Sever 2010 integration

The biggest new feature we're introducing in ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010 will be Microsoft Lync Sever 2010 support. As soon as you step into ProtoSphere, the first thing you'll probably notice is the clarity and richness of the VoIP, thanks to the Lync system.

However, that's not all Lync has enabled us to add. I told you about our new Phone Dialer earlier today. And in addition, we've made three other major updates to ProtoSphere's voice communications functionality, all of which are supported through Lync. They include:

Always-on VoIP for hands-free talking. You'll be able to speak and hear other users the moment you enter a zone.

Echo cancellation, which eliminates possible echo when speaking without a headset. You'll no longer need to wear one to ensure an echo-free experience.

Communication Panel, which lets you adjust and mute/unmute your microphone; adjust and mute/unmute your speaker; and select your audio device, whether it be headset or built-in microphone/speakers.

That makes five Lync-supported features you can't find in any other virtual environment. Watch all of them in action in our video below. I recorded the audio for this video through Lync's technology, so you'll also hear just how crisp ProtoSphere VoIP will be.



UPDATE 11/17/10: We've renamed ProtoSphere 1.6 as ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010.

ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010 Feature Peek: Phone Dialer for outbound calling

Another new feature we're adding to ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010 is the Phone Dialer. It's provided through our Microsoft Lync integration. The Phone Dialer lets you make outbound calls from ProtoSphere to any number, allowing you to bring people who aren't in ProtoSphere into your virtual conference.

Calls can be placed to any number, including landlines, mobile numbers, and conference bridges. Our Phone Dialer is useful if a team member is running late, stuck in traffic, or away from their computer.
 
Our video below shows you how our ProtoSphere Phone Dialer works. Watch me make an outbound call, and demonstrate all of the options we've included with this feature.



Riiiing, riiiing. Hey, ProtoSphere's on the line!

UPDATE 11/17/10: We've renamed ProtoSphere 1.6 as ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Just how good is Microsoft Lync's VoIP audio quality? Hear the difference.

Back in September we told you that we've been developing support for Microsoft Lync Server 2010 in ProtoSphere. Here's our first sneak peek into what we've been working on.

Our upcoming ProtoSphere release will have brand new VoIP communications functionality using Microsoft Lync technology. To illustrate the difference, here's how the VoIP audio currently sounds in ProtoSphere 1.5:



And here's how the VoIP audio will sound in ProtoSphere with Microsoft Lync technology:



What do you think? Dare I say, music to your ears?

UPDATE 11/17/10: We've renamed ProtoSphere 1.6 as ProtoSphere Lync Edition 2010.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Leading up to the Microsoft Lync virtual launch event

Momentum continues to build around Microsoft's upcoming launch of Lync 2010, its next release of Office Communications Server and Communicator. Last week, Microsoft released Lync 2010 to manufacturing. And on Nov. 17, Microsoft will celebrate the release during its virtual launch event in New York City.

As a Microsoft partner, I've been invited to join the launch event. I'll be there tuning in to the keynote from Chris Capossela, Senior Vice President of the Information Worker Product Management Group at Microsoft, and Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate Vice President of the Office Communications Group at Microsoft. They're slated to discuss how Lync fits into Microsoft's broader productivity platform, including SharePoint, Exchange, and Office.

I'll also have my camera with me as usual to capture the happenings on film, and snag any interviews I can with Microsoft executives and customers. We'll be bringing our coverage back to you here on our blog.

We also have some exciting things related to Lync and ProtoSphere that we plan to share with you on our blog leading up to the event. Back in September we told you we will be introducing Microsoft Lync Server 2010 support in a future ProtoSphere release. You can expect the next chapters of that story to unfold soon. Til then!

Friday, October 29, 2010

How we design ProtoSphere's avatars

One question that I'm sometimes asked by our customers is, how do you come up with the designs and names for ProtoSphere's default avatars? It's a great question. Here's how our avatars are born. Usually, one of our artists from the creative team is assigned with coming up with the "look" of the pre-defined set of selectable avatars, based upon the various body parts and selections that our other character artists have created and added to the build.

They typically follow a business casual approach when setting up the wardrobe options and will joke that they try to make them look as "J.Crew" as possible.

As for naming, it's not uncommon to see a baby name book laying around, used to come up with names for the various ethnicities. We try to be as diverse as we can, of course.

We offer these default avatars to give users quick access to a variety of pre-defined choices. It's a time saver. But ultimately, the fun is most had when users design their own character with the different heads, hair styles, shirts, and pants we offer. There are hundreds of possible combinations.


ProtoSphere's avatar customization dashboard. It's you -- only virtual.
In our next ProtoSphere release, we've worked to improve the system and quality of art. For example, instead of a particular male avatar head being able to support three or four different hair styles that fit that particular mesh, you'll be able to select any one of up to 20 hair styles to use on any male avatar head.

This greatly increases the customization of the system, giving users more flexibility to make their avatars look as they wish, all within the "business appropriate" confines that we've established in the platform.

Getting set for WinConnections 2010

This weekend I'll be packing my bags for Vegas. But gambling isn't in the cards (I say that now! Ha!). The real reason for my trip is to attend the WinConnections conference, which runs next Monday through Thursday.

For the unacquainted, WinConnections is a premiere event for IT professionals. Three conferences will be taking place simultaneously -- Windows Connections, Exchange Connections, and SharePoint Connections.

Each features a great line up of speakers and sessions, which you can read about on the WinConnections site. It's a valuable networking and educational conference, and a great opportunity to meet with peers, Microsoft product teams, and Microsoft partners.

Our Sales Engineer Tom and I will be manning our booth at the event. So if you're planning on going to the show and want to catch up or learn more about ProtoSphere, be sure to stop by! In fact, we'll be giving a sneak peek into the new features for Microsoft customers attending the event.

We'll also have free USB flash drives on hand to give out, which contain our ProtoSphere demo build and other information about the platform and how organizations are collaborating in it.

I'll have my camera with me to capture the sights and sounds of the event, and hopefully snap some video interviews with the speakers and attendees. We'll bring back our coverage right here on our blog, so keep your eyes peeled.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New white paper: Life sciences training scenarios in virtual immersive environments

We've put together a new white paper for life sciences trainers to help them better understand how they can use virtual immersive environments to provide more effective training programs to their organization in less time and for less cost.

"How Virtual Immersive Environments (VIEs) Address Learning Challenges in Life Sciences" is packed with specific, detailed scenarios of how trainers can use VIEs to hold key opinion leader meetings, conduct scientific poster sessions, share clinical study research, and more.

It's penned by Brian Miller, Learning Strategy and Technology Consultant for Learning Mind. Brian has worked in the corporate learning and development industry for 17 years, nine of which he spent in pharmaceuticals. He's held a range of roles through his career, including trainer, instructional designer, e-learning developer, project manager, senior-level learning manager, and strategic consultant.

Through the scenarios he paints in his white paper, Brian underscores how virtual immersive environments can help trainers improve knowledge sharing, knowledge retention, and real-time collaboration. It's worth a read for anyone interested in gaining a grasp of the benefits virtual immersive environments can bring to not only life sciences companies, but many other enterprises as well.

You can download it for free now. And if you have questions or feedback, feel free to leave a comment below.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Avatar: your key to equal contribution and opportunity

Much has been discussed and written about virtual environments achieving levels of immersion and interactivity that rival (and some believe exceed) face-to-face meetings. Much has also been written about increasing the retention of information shared in world.

Interacting in a virtual environment
But to many, the whys and hows surrounding this remain a mystery. Perhaps the most crucial, yet most misunderstood element driving such a high degree of engagement is the avatar.

An avatar projects individuals in the first person, allowing them to enter a common environment -- a conference room, classroom, etc. -- with other people and data sources. This achieves common presence, togetherness, and equality, enabling a high degree of interaction and sharing to occur.

It creates an any (person) to any (person or content) to any (time) scheme that is fundamental to highly interactive and productive encounters.

Attending a Web conference
Contrast this approach to the typical Web conferencing session that we have all endured. Each individual remains in their own separate and unique setting. It could be their office, home, hotel room, airport, or local coffee shop. And they stay there by themselves.

By its very construct, Web conferencing is based on a scheme of broadcast -- one person controlling and presenting to a group of dispersed individuals. Is that interaction? Is that equality of function? Or is that a one-person, hierarchical approach to collaboration?

This achieves a very interesting and counterproductive result. By limiting or preventing participants from dynamically interacting, sharing ideas, accessing content, and equally contributing to the task(s) at hand, traditional Web conferencing reinforces the sense of fragmentation and disconnection. Perhaps that is the key reason why a one (desktop) to many (participants) dynamic quickly leads to participant tune-out.

It might sound a little goofy, but your avatar is your key to equality. It provides you the freedom to engage and contribute when and how you choose.

Against this backdrop, it becomes clear that avatars are perhaps the most important human factor in virtual immersive environments. By dynamically connecting the right people to the right content at the right time, avatars enable the types of unrestricted interactions we all demand when tasked with contributing to a group initiative.

What do you think, and what's been your experience? How essential are avatars to real online collaboration?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

IBM's approach to learning and training technology

My camera and I caught up with Mark Gribman, Education Manager for IBM, last night at the ASTD Greater Philadelphia Chapter meeting. Mark gave me a quick synopsis of how IBM has been working with virtual immersive environments lately, and why the company continues its commitment to education technology.

Musings from ASTD Greater Philadelphia Chapter meeting

Last night was the October meeting of the ASTD Greater Philadelphia Chapter (American Society for Training and Development). There was a great turnout of local learning and training folks, and I got the opportunity to spend time with some old friends and make new ones.

My buddy Karl Kapp, who presented with me, recapped the meeting well on his blog. And to his post I'll add some coverage of my own. I snagged Dave Fink, Vice President of Programs of the ASTD Philly chapter, for a few minutes to talk about the organization and the businesses involved in making it tick. Watch it here, and don't go far, because I have another video from the meeting to share with you shortly as well!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Upcoming ASTD Philly chapter meeting to cover learning in virtual worlds

This Wednesday I'll be taking the stage for my next great performance. Unfortunately I'll be leaving my guitar at home. This stint is for my day job!

I'll be presenting at the October meeting of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of ASTD (American Society for Training and Development). For the unacquainted, ASTD is the world's largest professional association for the training and development industry.

I'm honored to have several industry thought leaders with me at the podium this week.
  • Wain Ballard, President of Ballard Education. Wain is very proficient in enterprise learning strategy and technology, having spent about 20 years in education, IT consulting, and banking/finance. We asked him if he would contribute a guest post for us about what he'll be covering, and we're hoping to share that with you soon.
  • Dr. Lia DiBello, President and Director of Research for Workplace Technologies Research, located at City University of New York. She's spent over 18 years in workplace research at organizations including Harvard, IBM Cognitive Science Labs, and the Laboratory for Cognitive Studies of Work.
  • Dr. Karl Kapp, Bloomsberg University professor whom we know and love.
  • Dr. Tony O'Driscoll, Duke University professor and also close bud, who will be joining us virtually in ProtoSphere.
The topic of the meeting is the business value of 3-D immersive environments for enterprise learning and collaboration. We'll be taking a look at the present and future of virtual world technologies and their use for learning and collaboration.

You'll gain insight into how and why some companies are using virtual worlds today, and advice on deciding when, where, and how to use virtual worlds for enterprise learning in your organization. It will be an informative, educational event, and a good opportunity to bounce ideas off of us and your peers.

The meeting will be held Oct. 13 from 6 p.m to 8:30 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Center City Philadelphia. For those of you who are out of the area or can't make it, I'm planning to bring my camera to capture the goings-on. We'll post the footage to our blog, so keep your eyes peeled. Hey, if I can't bring my guitar, I guess a camera will have to do!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

ProtoSphere resources added to Microsoft Pinpoint site

You might be familiar with Microsoft's Pinpoint site, the company's portal of information about its partners' technologies and services. Microsoft recently added a page about ProtoSphere to Pinpoint, which includes a host of information and supporting materials about the platform. I thought I'd bring it to your attention as another educational resource. Feel free to poke around, download the demo, and get acquainted!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do you have the tools to be mobile?

If you're a card-carrying member of the mobile device generation, you can probably attest that your mobility is crucial to staying productive. Pick your poison. iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, iPad, netbook, Bluetooth, what have you. Without your mobile device, you feel virtually handicapped (literally).

So it's surprising to see that many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are not providing their employees with the tools they need to be more mobile. A recent survey by Citrix Online finds 54 percent of SMB employees have become more mobile in their work habits over the past five years. But 60 percent of those surveyed reported that their employer does not provide mobile tools and resources to increase productivity.

The disconnect suggests "that small business owners are slow to recognize the impact mobility has on company productivity," according to a SmallBizTechnology.com article covering the research. It goes on to list several mobile technologies that should be considered when supporting mobile and remote working strategies.

One technology that caught my eye was virtual collaboration, and I'll direct you to my comment to read why. Give the article a look-see, and let us know what you think about the technologies it presents. Where's your organization at with regards to remote working? What differences do you see between SMBs and large enterprises when it comes to mobility and remote working?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Robert Scoble's ProtoSphere coverage is a Technically Philly must read

You could probably tell how excited I was about my video interview with Robert Scoble by my post last week. Well it looks like I'm not the only one holding it in high regard. The interview caught the eyes of the folks at Technically Philly, who featured it as a must read in their Startup Roundup series. Cool dudes, thanks for highlighting us.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New ProtoSphere overview video

With all of the features and functionality we've been adding to ProtoSphere this year, it's time we created a new overview video. The video below covers all the bases, including ProtoSphere's document sharing functionality, data visualization features, Microsoft SharePoint and Lync support, and more. Feel free to share with colleagues and friends. And for more in-depth coverage of our latest ProtoSphere capabilities, hit our ProtoSphere 1.5 feature peeks and features list.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Robert Scoble dubs ProtoSphere "interesting" and "very cool"

There's probably no single blogger more influential in technology than Robert Scoble. Best known for his blog, Scobleizer, Scoble began gaining notoriety as a technology evangelist for Microsoft in the early 2000s. He's also the mastermind behind building43, a popular content and social networking website for Rackspace.

I was honored when Scoble agreed to take a demo of ProtoSphere recently. I was doubly honored when he featured our meeting on his YouTube channel last week. Here's a shot of his channel when the video hit:


And here's his video of our meeting:



Scoble is one of the toughest tech skeptics there is. He's had his nose to the ground of technology since at least the early 90s, when he was an active participant in CompuServe, supporting early versions of Visual Basic.

Scoble has seen it all, but he only features what he feels is worthy of review. In fact, Scoble was excited enough about ProtoSphere that he tweeted the video of our meeting to not only his Twitter followers ...

"Video @ProtonMedia brings a Second-Life approach to enterprises http://t.co/7zuTUHV Very cool 3D world used by big companies."


... but also to Tim O'Reilly, who, for the uninitiated, coined the term "Web 2.0" and is regarded as one of top computer book authors and publishers in the world.

"Yo @timoreilly check out how @ProtonMedia uses data in a 3D world: youtube.com/watch?v=CmUCmd… Cool part is at about 23'rd minute in this video."


I'd encourage you to watch Scoble's video coverage of our meeting to see what he found interesting about ProtoSphere and why he deemed it worthy to feature on his YouTube channel. He called ProtoSphere "very cool" several times throughout our meeting, and wrapped up our conversation with, "I'm glad you brought this to my house and showed it to me, because this is really, most people don't think enterprise software can be sexy and interesting, and this is quite interesting."

I hope this doesn't sound too self-serving or promotional. But I've invested many years of my life in the strong belief that we are doing something innovative with ProtoSphere. To be able to present to someone who really does see it all everyday, and who has a great perspective on recognizing what technologies provide business value, versus which ones are just the shiny new thing ... honestly, it just gets me really excited, and makes me feel gratified and thankful.

So thanks for the kudos, Robert, and thank you again for taking the time to demo ProtoSphere. It was a pleasure!

Also folks, if you'd like to read through our interview, here's the complete transcript. Feel free to download and share.

ProtoSphere 1.5 released: First portable 3-D world for business collaboration

As you probably know, we've been holding a beta program for ProtoSphere 1.5 over the past several weeks.
Our development team has been making final tweaks to the code, and now we're ready to pull the covers off. ProtoSphere 1.5 is now live and available for general release.

We're sticking to our roots with this version: helping you create a high-performance workplace. And that means making smart use of time and resources. So we've updated ProtoSphere with nine new features to help you stop one of the most time-consuming and often-unproductive things we do -- meet.

Meetings can be drudgery. And how often have you had a meeting, for say an hour, and nothing really gets accomplished??

With ProtoSphere 1.5, you can go beyond meetings and actually start working. This is thanks to one of our biggest new features, and one that I'm really excited about: Portable application support, making ProtoSphere the first portable 3-D world for business collaboration.

ProtoSphere's portable app support lets you run the platform anywhere, anytime without installation. Just plug in any USB flash drive with the ProtoSphere app on it and you’re ready to start working. This helps you reduce or even eliminate travel and associated costs, and start collaborating virtually in almost no time at all. With ProtoSphere now available as a portable app, you can literally have the whole world in your hands. ;)

There's much more to our new release, however, which we've documented in our press release below, our features list, and our feature peek videos. You can also try ProtoSphere out first hand by downloading our demo version. If you're an existing demo user, ProtoSphere will automatically update the next time you log in.

So give it gander, and let me know how we did! And as always, if you have any questions or would like a personal demonstration of ProtoSphere, feel free to ping us.



ProtonMedia Releases ProtoSphere 1.5: First Portable 3-D World for Business Collaboration

Now Companies Can Stop Meeting and Start Working with World’s First Portable App for 3-D Virtual Collaboration

LANSDALE, Pa.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today ProtonMedia released ProtoSphere 1.5, a major update of the company’s market-leading virtual collaboration environment for the high-performance workplace. The new release gives enterprise teams nine major new features to collaborate more effectively while reducing or even eliminating travel and associated costs, including the first-ever ProtoSphere portable app.

“There’s a lot of interest in virtual meetings today,” says Ron Burns, CEO of ProtonMedia. “But ProtoSphere 1.5 goes beyond meetings to actual business collaboration between cross-functional teams. That’s why we’re the #1 virtual workplace in the life sciences industry. We bake in the tools and technologies that let enterprise teams work securely and meet regulatory and compliance requirements that life sciences and other global organizations are subject to. And with our new 1.5 release of ProtoSphere, collaborating virtually anytime, anywhere couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is plug a USB flash drive with the new ProtoSphere portable app on it into any PC, and you’ll be beamed into your event in no time. No installation. No IT tweaking. No traveling. Just plug in and put your team to work.”

ProtoSphere provides an arsenal of business-focused meeting, collaboration, and social communication tools that help companies accelerate decision-making, meet human capital management needs, raise productivity, and improve workplace performance overall. Here’s what’s new in ProtoSphere 1.5:

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