Social networking services will replace email as the primary vehicle for communications for 20 per cent of business users by 2014, according to analysts at Gartner Inc.

Gartner said the change would come as a result of greater availability of social-networking-services, coupled with changing demographics and work styles.

Speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Cannes this week, Gartner analyst Monica Basso said, “In the past, organisations supported collaboration through email and highly structured applications only. Today, social paradigms are converging with email, instant messaging (IM) and presence, creating new collaboration styles.”

However, she said, a truly collaborative, effective and efficient workplace will not arise until organisations make these capabilities widely available, and users become more comfortable with them. “Technology is only an enabler, culture is a must for success”, said Basso.

Gartner said newer employees will enter the workforce with a predisposition to communicate via a social network, but they will use email in parallel.

“The rigid distinction between email and social networks will erode. Email will take on many social attributes, such as contact brokering, while social networks will develop richer email capabilities,” said Basso.

Vendors such as Microsoft and IBM, said Gartner, will add links to internal and external social networks from within email clients and servers, making services such as contacts, calendars and tasks shareable across email and social networks.

By 2012, Gartner said contact lists, calendars and messaging clients in any smartphones will be social-enabled applications.

Gartner predicts that the percentage of email accounts on cloud services will grow to 10 percent by year-end 2012, up 7 percent from 2009.

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