Until recently, the collaboration tools that I use to communicate with my crew have had one critical failing: none of the free screen sharing options on the market can be used with any kind of reliability.
We tried VNC, we tried RDC, but the tools that work fine for remotely controlling a server break down when used to share the screens of a client. A solution that worked one day failed the next, some solutions required tweaking of network equiptment, and in general a lot of time was wasted.
After months of being exposed to advertisements to gotomeeting.com in my Eudora add window (yes I use the free version, I am a cheapskate), I finally opted for a free two-week trial. For 49$ a month, it completely solved our problem. Gotomeeting is positioned as a sales tool, for external communication with potential clients, but we’ve found that it works just as well for internal use. At this point I can’t imagine working with a remote team without a robust screen sharing solution in place.
My last software subscription purchase was of basecamp, which had a similarly big impact on the productivity of the Uzanto dev team. At this point, my collaboration suite looks like this
GoToMeeting : $49 /month
BaseCamp : $24 /month
Skype : FREE
Mantis : FREE
Yahoo Doodle : FREE
Subversion : FREE
Notice that the paid subscriptions are new, and are for decent amounts of money. I’m seeing a trend, and I’m calling it. The next big software boom will be in collaboration tools that allow remote teams to work together seamlessly. Pricing will be by subscription, and the market will be huge. If I was starting over, I would make Project X be a collaboration tool. My next project will _definitely_ be in this space.
Flash hackers should pay particular attention to this trend. The only decent zero-install technology that allows the server to push content to a client is the flash communications server. That ability is crucial to real-time collaboration (as opposed to the asynchorous collaboration you see in bug-tracking and project-management systems). If Flash developers can stop working on elearning projects for a few months they could easily build some great tools for this space, tools that would be valued at a premium in the current market.