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IBM Verse – An Attempt To Radically Modernize Work Email

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IBM Verse Header

IBM is trying to socialize email through its newly launched IBM Verse platform. It’s tagged – “a new way to work” – and it aims at redesigning the way we use email at work.

Research indicates that only 25% of the billions of work emails that get exchanged every day are important; and 13% are personal, and not related to work. IBM looks to leverage Watson software’s cognitive abilities to sort and filter the email into what is important, needs immediate attention, and the rest that can wait, thereby, attempting to increase the productivity of users.

IBM plans on combining traditional email with features such as instant messaging, file sharing, calendars and social networking into one collaborative cloud-based platform.

IBM Verse

Verse evaluates usage patterns and builds a list of the most important people whom the user interacts with (editable by user). It also contains a Watson-based personal assistant to which you can send a message asking to setup a meeting with your colleagues. The assistant parses through your message, analyzes names, dates and time. It fetches the calendars of the intended recipients and sets up a meeting at a time that is appropriate for all of them. The interface includes list of emails on the left and a preview window to the right and a persistent calendar view of the day’s appointments at the bottom.

The offering from IBM sounds interesting, but does it go all the way?

I was one of the earliest adopters of GMail – right after a month of its beta launch back in May, 2004. Google established a new UI for webmail with Asynchronous Javascript and XML (better known as AJAX), at the time when its competitors like Hotmail and Yahoo! were still rendering their webmail UI through traditional HTML pages.

Gmail pioneered the conversation-view for emails, integrated chat and provided ability to import emails from other providers and with custom reply-to and sender identities. Google built on top of the limited email interfaces that was available at the time and made it rich and more accessible.

Having previewed Verse today, I feel that IBM does not seem to have built on what is already available to the user. Verse lacks many options such as importing email or contacts from existing services. It does not allow for anonymous file sharing – meaning the user you are sharing files with has to exist under the same organization.

The basic account has a limit of 500MB mailbox size and can only send 25 100* emails a day, and at a time, only to 10 recipients. These restrictions are ridiculous by today’s standards.

Finally, considering that IBM Verse is still in its beta, there is still room for expectation that some of the features missing might be incorporated in the future. Can IBM make good of its venture into an already-cluttered space of email dominated by Google and Microsoft? We will have to wait and watch.

If you are interested in trying it out, you can sign up here. Be aware that it may take a few weeks before your account will be setup. And if you end up using it, feel free to drop us a comment about your experience with Verse!

* The initial offering was 25 emails/day, which was then raised to 100/day.

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