Contextual collaboration is a new approach to collaborative software that involves embedding all the relevant applications, such as word processors, enterprise instant messaging (EIM), shared calendars, and groupware, into a unified user interface that uses presence technology to enhance collaboration. This means that from within any of the applications people could communicate and instantly share any resources at their disposal. The goal of contextual collaboration is to make online collaboration as simple and intuitive as it is to work with people in the same room, while enabling that capacity between people anywhere in the world.
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Here's one scenario: While reading a document, a question about the material occurs to you. The names of all the people involved with that material are made available as live links. To ask one of the people involved a question, you might move your cursor over their name, see if they were online, and if they were, click their name to send them your question instantly.
The defining features of contextual collaboration include:
- Presence technology: It should be possible to see when people are online and to communicate with them, similar to instant messaging (IM), except that it could be accessed from within other applications;
- Real-time communication: It should be possible to communicate instantly through text or voice chat;
- Resource sharing: It should be possible to share any material on your computer with anyone you're collaborating with.
IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Lotus, and Oracle and are among the vendors currently building contextual collaboration capability into products.