The Forrester Wave for Mobile Collaboration hit the virtual newsstands this week, highlighting the who's who in the portable workplace. 

Mobile Collaboration Anew 

I think we're all pretty clear on what mobile collaboration means these days, but in case one or two of you have been living under a rock: The ability for business folk to process their workloads on smartphones and tablets. That's it. 

It sounds simple enough, but Forrester looked at a number of factors (15 criteria total) when creating this Wave, including enterprise readiness and cross-platform support. Further, the firm only considered cloud-based apps with native applications available for more than one mobile operating system, which caused several vendors' products to be left out (including Microsoft SharePoint and RIM BlackBerry Messenger).

The decision to include only cloud-based apps is an indication that the future belongs to the mobile app Internet, which is application architecture defined as “an architecture of native apps on smart mobile devices linked to cloud-based services that provide a context-rich experience anytime, anywhere.”

Cherry Picking the Vendors 

Forrester reportedly evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the most asked about vendors from four collaboration categories: document-based collaboration, web conferencing, video conferencing, and activity streams.

"We limited the vendors to those with native apps on more than one mobile operating system (AKA mobile platform) with a cloud solution and market experience, which means we left some vendors out, including Apple, Microsoft, and RIM," notes the report. 

Et voilà

forrester_wave_mobilecollab.jpg

 The Forrester Wave: Mobile Collaboration, Q3 2011

The Leaders

The leaders of this Wave displayed a commitment to tablets and smartphone platforms as well as a strategy aligned with the needs of the mobile workforce: low latency, cloud reach, and platform support. 

  • Adobe Connect: Solving the challenges of iPhones and iPads by porting its Flash-based web conferencing application, focusing on usability and user experience with a careful design of its product features for different screen sizes and form factors.
  • Box: A new-ish comer with big dreams, Box has spent a lot of energy on enterprise features such as policy-based administration, security features, and SharePoint and Documentum connectors.
  • Cisco WebEx: With more than than 1 million mobile attendees and15 million+ mobile meeting minutes every month, WebEx is expected to grow even larger with its global network and native mobile apps on iPhone, iPad, Android (including its Cius tablet), and RIM BlackBerry smartphones.
  • IBM LotusLive Meetings: Noted for its multiplatform, multidevice support, LotusLive is particularly useful when coupled with IBM’s cloud delivery model and enterprise-grade security and administration. 
  • Salesforce: In addition to cloud architecture and extensive mobile device support, Salesforce is noted for its focus on building hybrid apps (such as Chatter) that get the most functionality possible out of HTML5 browsers extended with client-side JavaScript libraries.
  • Skype: This one is no surprise, really. Skype's features include audio and videoconferencing, inbound and outbound dialing to regular phones, presence and chat, file sharing, and Wi-Fi access services. The company has had tens of millions of downloads on six different mobile operating systems, including iOS, Android, and RIM.
  • SugarSync: With US$ 26 million raised to offer cloud-based file synchronization and collaboration, SugarSync -- which is compared to Dropbox by critics -- is poised for serious expansion.  
  • Yammer: Noted for providing a consistent user experience across all devices,Yammer’s business social offering already counts 100,000 business customers, with 82% of the Fortune 500.

The Challengers (Strong Performers)

  • AT&T Connect: Highlighted specifically for its mobile webconferencing abilities. The big benefits, says Forrester, include a cloud delivery model and global reach.
  • Citrix: This company did well with the extension of GoToMeeting to tablets and smartphones. 
  • Dropbox: This company can serve your employees mobile document needs with or without your support. Users include those with email addresses at 87% of Fortune 100 firms, and roughly 200 million files a day are uploaded to Dropbox servers. Files are encrypted on Amazon’s S3 cloud storage, and data transfers use SSL. 
  • Evernote: This note-taking application stores notes in the cloud and makes them available via mobile app. Forrester notes that although this vendor has not yet built enterprise security features, it is another document-based collaboration vendor that likely includes your employees among its customers.
  • Google: And finally, the Big G. pushes mobile web but has acknowledged the need for mobile apps. Google Apps for Business has landed customers customers such as GSA, Genentech, and the city of Los Angeles with its “100% web” strategy. 

Huh?

This is the first Wave of its kind so we're going to cut Forrester a little slack, but it's worth it to note little things such as the fact that Box, Skype and Evernote are three very different applications. Can they really be compared apples to apples?

On the up side, no vendor slipped into the Contender or Risky Bet categories — at least as it relates to mobile support.

Opinions? Criticisms? Feelings? Express them in the comments section below.  Or, check the report in full here