Web 2.0 entering corporate world slowly

Practices and technologies from the public-facing Internet have great potential but face challenges, executives say.

TYSON'S CORNER, Va.-- Notions of Web 2.0 are creeping inside corporate firewalls, but companies still lag consumers in adoption of those technologies because of system complexity and concerns of control, said speakers at the New New Internet conference here on Wednesday.

Technologies such as AJAX-style Web development, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and blogs are being used within businesses, typically in small-scale or experimental deployments. The social aspects of wikis, tagging and Web-enabled social networking can also improve collaboration among workers, speakers said.

"Web 2.0 for business is all about the consumerization of IT."
--Rajen Sheth, product manager at Google Enterprise

In the past when it came to adopting new technology, corporations were on the leading edge and consumers were underserved. That's all turned around now, said Rajen Sheth, product manager at Google Enterprise.

"Web 2.0 for business is all about the consumerization of IT," Sheth said.

Inside Google, for example, the company is using hosted applications designed for consumers. The company uses Web-based Gmail and employees typically maintain huge, searchable e-mail databases. To promote ad hoc networking, each employee has a profile page where they keep information on ongoing projects, Sheth said.

The consumer market is influencing corporate sales as well. Technology vendors targeting corporations are using the try-before-you-buy marketing techniques used with consumers.

Rather than a long sales process aimed at IT executives, products are increasingly being brought in by employees, who may have tried a service at home first. And in contrast to most enterprise applications, Web 2.0 products are simple and focus on a few features rather than many, Sheth said.

"Google Apps for Your Domain (a bundle of hosted applications) is our first take at software as a service and letting businesses leverage our (data center) infrastructure. A lot of those applications are focused on collaboration," he said.

But a panel of technology executives argued that the business customer represents significantly different needs. By their nature, corporations have more complex situations than the individual consumer, panelists noted.

"The currency is different in consumer applications. Individual consumers want to save time and be more productive. In business, you're trying to make a group more productive," said Christian Heidelberger, CEO of Nexaweb Technologies. Nexaweb makes tools for building so-called rich Internet applications, which have an interactive graphical user interface.

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