Although Oracle's Beehive (the successor to 'Oracle Collaboration Suite' launched on May the 8th of this year it officially launched at Oracle OpenWorld today. At a price of $120 per user seat this is not a system for most small or medium sized businesses but rather a secure solution that can be integrated with existing enterprise infrastructure.
Obviously integration is seamless with Oracle, who claim the system was designed as a result of clients asking for 'collaboration that works within the structure of our existing business'. The new openness allows integration with SAP or other competitors, and a set of web services that will run on different server platforms - Solaris, Linux, Microsoft.
Oracle take great pains to point out that they are addressing existing customer needs in providing a system that reinforces regulatory needs. Mark Brown, Senior Director of Beehive Business Strategy, cited the recent leak of politician Sara Palin's private email and increasing regulatory compliance of the financial industry as examples of the need for tighter infrastructure oversight.
Beehive, which many have commented is arriving on the scene very late in the wake of Lotus Connections and Sharepoint, is essentially an open-standards based platform which aims to integrate team workspaces, calendar, instant messaging, and e-mail. All these utilities come with tightly tracked date stamped logging.
From the briefing today plus a tire kicking session on the expo floor with the actual application (which intriguingly was hidden in a corner of a large hall at a small booth), the primary focus appears to be email regulatory compliance.
Historically lawyers get into a frenzy of activity around email and document discovery in their many legal challenges: my take is Oracle Beehive, which essentially runs inside Microsoft Outlook, Zimbra, Novell or other email clients, is primarily designed to facilitate this process.
There is clearly a value to this and combined with a unified API, (historically Oracle Collaboration Suite and open source collaboration environments can be a labor intensive 'get the APIis talking to each other' exercise) for strictly process driven businesses this could be a useful addition in specific sectors.
Oracle's claim this is 'enterprise collaboration' is a stretch however. Although the roadmap (which I have heard about but not seen) plans to include for example video conferencing in the future, at present the focus appears to be on secure communications. It will be interesting to see how this platform matures.