IBM on Tuesday launched a cloud-based email service that’s designed to take some of the clutter and confusion out of business communications. The system, called Verse, pulls together and organizes messages from a number of sources, including email, social updates, instant messaging and calendars.
Verse will be generally available early next year for the PC, as well as Android and Apple iOS mobile devices.
Verse is the latest effort by a major tech player to produce an email product that is more intuitive and up to date than industry standards like Outlook. Google recently released Inbox, a service “that goes beyond email to help you get back to what matters.” Microsoft, long familiar with complaints about Outlook’s inability to filter clutter, earlier this month introduced Graph, which relies on machine learning to sort and prioritize users’ messages.
Now comes IBM. The company is leveraging previous investments in artificial intelligence, analytics and social media in an attempt to build a smarter email platform. “We challenged our design teams to use analytics to completely reimagine the social collaboration experience to focus on engaging people and driving outcomes, not managing messages and inboxes,” said Bob Picciano, senior VP for IBM’s Information and Analytics Group.
Verse offers a one-click path to any individual, group or topic in a user’s email folder. It also offers an organizational view of correspondents, access to shared documents and the ability to mute threads that are no longer of interest. With enough use, it will also predict which emails are most important to a user.
The point of it all is to make email less of a frustrating time sink. IBM cites industry research that shows that 108 billion work-related emails are sent daily throughout the world, forcing employees to check their inboxes an average of 36 times per hour.
Some early adopters said Verse helps cut the clutter. “The overall design and visual interface immediately caught my attention,” said Gilberto Garcia, chief technology officer at construction industry giant Cemex, which is beta testing Verse. Verse “didn’t force me to jump between my inbox, calendar and other apps to share and connect with people,” Garcia said.
IBM sought input from more than 50 customers and partners in creating Verse. Beta testing is underway, and it will be generally available for the PC, Android and iOS devices starting in the first quarter of 2015. The company did not release pricing details, but said a basic version of Verse will be free to use.