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Mobile collaboration app Spin offers video calls, content sharing

Net Power & Light's Spin enterprise mobile collaboration app offers video conferencing and content sharing that uses the whole smartphone.

Consumer content sharing and video chat vendor Net Power & Light has released an enterprise edition of its flagship cloud-based application, Spin. Spin will allow multiple employees to video conference and collaborate in real-time, while simultaneously sharing encrypted content from their iOS-based mobile devices.

Many enterprises are looking for mobile collaboration tools, which has prompted vendors like Cisco to acquire companies with mobile collaboration expertise that they can integrate into their unified communications (UC) platforms. But there is still a demand for standalone mobile collaboration vendors.

While incumbent enterprise collaboration vendors have been working toward mobilizing existing messaging and communication applications, the Spin app is pushing a "mobility first" collaboration strategy, without a desktop counterpart, said Raul Castanon-Martinez, senior analyst for New York-based 451 Research's mobility team. "This is a very different technology approach, but emerging [providers] ... and their products are important because they are bringing [functionality] into the market that we didn't have before," Castanon-Martinez said.

Spin mobile collaboration: Video conferencing and content sharing from an iOS device

The enterprise edition of Spin allows up to ten users to participate in a HD video call, and share documents, photos, presentations and videos at the same time. To get started, first-time users must download the application from Apple's App store, create an account and then can begin communicating with other users.

Unlike many enterprise collaboration tools, Spin doesn't require users to pass control over a session back and forth when creating or modifying content." Employees can work on a document or presentation together, at the same time -- they can write notes, mark up [the content], and send it off like they are all sitting in the same room," said Thomas Engdahl, CEO of San Francisco-based Net Power & Light (NPL).

The application also has a comments feature to add group notes to a Spin gathering. In addition to real-time collaboration, Spin can also integrate with, and store content created for later viewing to, file sharing apps -- like Dropbox. It can use iOS's screenshot feature to save comments and markups to the local device's camera roll. Spin also can link to a user's social media platforms, including Facebook.

"Because it's built with mobile workers in mind, the [Spin app] is making full use of smartphone and tablet capabilities, such as your camera roll and contacts," 451's Castanon-Martinez said.

The cloud-based application runs on Amazon's Simple Storage Service and uses NPL Beam, a proprietary network protocol that can intelligently prioritize and deliver resources to ensure application responsiveness, content synchronization and low-latency for real-time communications, NPL's Engdahl said. "The secret sauce is the back-end architecture that allows multiple streams to go out to the mobile devices and each one of those streams can be individually managed. Video can be degraded if shared content needs to be high-quality, depending on the bandwidth users have available," he said.

For businesses looking for further integration, Spin features can integrate into existing enterprise applications, or be "private labeled" for a branded collaboration tools to users. Spin will be extended to Android- based mobile devices in September and will support WebRTC and HTML5-based browsers in December of this year, Engdahl said.

Mobile collaboration: Standalone vendors still a good fit for some businesses

Smaller players specializing in specific collaboration features -- like mobility -- have been historically inexpensive, but not always secure enough for a highly regulated industry to use. Enterprises have relied on established vendors for larger deployments. But viable collaboration specialists are emerging, and offering businesses the "niche" features they need, said Rob Arnold, senior industry analyst at Mountain View, California based Frost and Sullivan Inc.

While some of the smaller collaboration vendors will need to partner with established players, not every vendor will need to offer integrations between their products and the larger enterprise collaboration platforms to appeal to businesses. "It's OK to be siloed sometimes," Arnold said. "Some smaller players might have one killer feature or are fulfilling a major need."

Standalone mobile collaboration apps that can prove themselves secure have an opportunity, as larger players are still scrambling to address this need in their portfolios, Castanon-Martinez said.  "There are some industries -- like heath care -- that are leaning toward going all-mobile and displacing desktops with tablets and smartphones, so the market is ready for a [product] like Spin," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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