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Yahoo Phone Home

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There's been an awful lot of Yahoo-hah in the last couple of days about a memo sent by Marissa Meyer to her workforce. While finding a better way to work should always be a company's priority, the days of Google beanbag-based round tables, water cooler banter and kick scooters racing down the hall are so yesterday. But I do have sympathy for Yahoo and their predicament which is, 'what alternative do they have.' Instead of focusing on what Yahoo isn't doing anymore, we should let this outcry for employee flexibility focus on what they can't do and use that to drive innovation.

The lines between work and home life have blurred as generations, both new and old, have embraced connectivity, and our expectations are growing for a more mobile work life. As a result, IDC predicts that the worldwide mobile worker population will increase from just over 1 billion in 2010 to more than 1.3 billion by 2015.

There is no doubt that there is little replacement for face-to-face collaboration, or that technology is only part of the solution to delivering the same creative synergy today. That said technology's role and its future in the workplace are nevertheless more crucial than ever. Visionary technology companies should be exploring how to create the best of working worlds, delivering creativity and efficiency across a global talent pool.

Many of Yahoo's peers in the technology space are exploring how to create virtual in-person experiences for the corporate world. The company that finds it will finally deliver an intuitive and natural virtual solution destined to become the Facebook of work, enabling collaboration and conversations irrespective of location, and supporting the evolution of the workforce. Right now, we need companies with technologists like Yahoo to start experimenting or looking for those small innovations that will make virtual in-person experiences a reality.

But how could this feasibly happen? Firstly, we need people to be able to interact with work across any device, content and environment, no matter what technology they are using. This requires an open framework working seamlessly across any OS, and which transitions securely, and naturally, between personal and work environments. The basis for this seamless cross platform revolution exists today -- it's called the web. And with standards like HTML5, augmented with tools that unlock device functionality, we can build better workforce virtual collaboration solutions. The world is already moving in this direction -- developers and brands alike are shifting quickly from native "locked" apps to web and hybrid apps that use adaptive technologies to create different native-like user experiences to each and any device.

Secondly, we need a more natural way of interacting with digital environments that leverages the senses, movements and interactions we would encounter in a face-to-face environment. Once again, we are already seeing this happen today...

Having just come back from Mobile World Congress 2013, I can tell you the device booths were not the exciting place to hang out. It was in the back alleys where all the start-ups pay for micro stands that are no bigger than a wash closet. Software, content and UI are the next big technology disruptors. Mobile devices may let us stay in contact from anywhere, but the next connection evolution are the Internet glasses, digital wallpaper, wearable Internet devices, gesture controls and sensory devices that can read muscle movement, audio and visual controllers. These are the technologies to watch.

As we bring technology interaction to life, and we move beyond the traditional screen world of the Internet, so too must we free up content and collaboration so it can move with us from any environment to any device seamlessly. This will result in our virtual worlds coming ever closer to the 'real' world -- the exciting thing is, the technology is already out there to make it happen. Watch this space.