Orange: Bring Web 2.0 inside enterprise

Coining itself a "communications integrator", Orange Business Services wants to recreate a Web 2.0 environment for enterprises.

PARIS--No longer keen to be seen as simply an infrastructure services provider, Orange Business Services has been evangelizing its role as a "communications integrator", with the IP network as a key component.

"[We want] to focus on all applications and services that are IP-based. I think there's tremendous opportunity here [because] it's a complex thing to manage and we can bring a lot to this [market]," Barbara Dalibard, president and CEO of Orange Business Services, said Friday during a roundtable dialog with selected Asia-Pacific media, who had gathered in Paris, France, for the company's global press meeting.

Dalibard explained that the IP infrastructure now facilitates many means of communications, including fixed and mobile, and is highly fragmented. As a result, she said, this market is primed for strong growth and Orange Business Services wants to be able to provide customers with all components of communications.

Leong Yee May, the company's Asia-Pacific senior vice president, said: "Where the enterprise market now in Asia-Pacific is, a lot of businesses buy point, end-box solutions. [As a result], the network solutions that are in a lot of customers today have become very fragmented.

"At the end of the day, it's all about bringing the applications nearer to the network and assuring the access [to these applications]. The core infrastructure facilitates that," Leong said.

Noting that the company's key asset is in its connectivity capability, Dalibard said: "What we're saying is, now, we are an integrator of communications solutions. We think our DNA is communications…the communication between people and systems [including machine-to-machine]."

She acknowledged that its strategy to focus on developing applications and service, is a shift away from the company's history as primarily a network infrastructure player.

Orange Business Services is the enterprise services arm of France Telecom Group, and was formerly network services provider, Equant, before the company was acquired by France Telecom in late-2000. In 2006, France Telecom grouped its Internet, television and mobile services under the Orange brand, which was also the result of a merger with U.K. mobile operator Orange in May 2000.

It now designs and builds its own IP applications, including messaging tools, and owns some 8,500 patents. The company runs 19 R&D labs worldwide, and 1.7 percent of the group's turnover is invested in research and development work.

However, rather than transform Orange Business Services into an IT services provider such as CapGemini and IBM, Dalibard said the company will establish partnerships with various IT players including Citrix and Cisco Systems.

Web 2.0 "inside" the enterprise
One area Orange Business Services is looking at focuses on integrating consumer and corporate communication tools, mainly, Web 2.0 applications.

Dalibard said: "You, as a person, are both a consumer and an employee of a company. At some point, people won't accept having to communicate in two different ways."

The company is currently developing what it believes will be the future "Web 2.0 desktop". Showcasing a prototype Orange Business Services had developed in its R&D labs, global demo manager Pierre de La Bourdonnaye said most businesses today are already thinking about a Web 2.0 strategy.

"But, they can't provide such capabilities within their company's internal environment as this market segment is still in its early stage. So, we want to fill that gap," de La Bourdonnaye said, noting that businesses must move to an IP infrastructure to fully benefit from Web 2.0.

During his demo, de La Bourdonnaye featured a user dashboard--deployed within the work environment--that supported tabbed browsing, drag-and-drop, and entry windows into various news feeds and external sites, as well as the user's corporate applications, including e-mail, instant messaging, corporate directory, and RSS feeds detailing the company's latest employee communications.

Users can create and personalize their own desktop by adding new tabs or windows, search for or call a colleague by dragging-and-dropping the colleague's name or e-mail address into a "click-to-call" window.

They can also add access to third-party services such as car-washing and laundry services, to the dashboard and other capabilities related to the employee's personal life, he said.

For instance, he demoed a tool--provided within the Web2.0 dashboard--that will alert the employee if a deliveryman is standing outside the gate of his home, allow the employee to see the deliveryman through a Web cam and communicate with him via an IP-based intercom, and remotely open the gate.

de La Bourdonnaye also demoed a new tool, dubbed Summarizer, that enables a user to drag-and-drop a URL page into a window and automatically identifies key words on that Web page, stringing them into proper sentences to provide a summary of the page.

Developed by Orange Labs, the Summarizer uses a combination of "symmetrics and statistics" to form a summary, eliminating unnecessary words and highlighting repeated key verbs and subjects used in the Web page, he explained.

The user can then view the summary within the dashboard, before deciding whether to click on the URL to read the entire article, he said, noting the product is still under development.

de La Bourdonnaye said the Web 2.0 desktop is not available as a commercial product, but added that it can be customized and built to an enterprise customer's specifications on a project basis.

Eileen Yu of ZDNet Asia reported from Paris, France.

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