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!
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