Virtual offices are an evolution of serviced office and the computing and software-as-a-service industry. Although today virtual offices, serviced offices are all a part of the flexible workspace industry, they all have different beginnings.
Many factors have contributed to the creation of the Virtual Office Infrastructure; for those unfamiliar, the Virtual Office Infrastructure means any or all of the combinations of its three elements: people + place + technology. Below you’ll find the main milestones that have led to Virtual Offices as we know them today.
As a shameless plug, after you read this timeline, please feel free to check out all our virtual office locations and offerings.
OmniOffices Group was created, forming the first known serviced office company. It is not yet known whether they offered any type of virtual office product, but we are investigating. See the Flexible Workspace Timeline at Allwork.Space for more details.
– Paul Fegen founded Fegen Lawsuites. Although most of his space was rented out to fellow lawyers, his space was used to offer the first serviced offices and executive suites. He rented out large blocks of office space to different professionals and leased out furnished and decorated suites. The services that “Fegen Suites” offered included reception services, telephone answering, photocopies, conference rooms, and a law library.
– In 1972 ARPANET went public, connecting 40 computers in different locations. However, it wasn’t until 1974 that scientists were able to develop transmission control protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP), which allowed different networks to communicate with each other. In 1982 ARPANET adopts TCP/IP, giving birth to the Internet.
– Attorney Office Management, Inc. (AOMI, or better known as Fegen Law Suites) offered his tenant an “off-site tenant program” to semi-retired lawyers and those who were in Orange County, and wanted an LA County headquarters.” Could this be the earliest version of the virtual office?
– Alf Moufarrige founded Servcorp in Australia.In an interview with OfficingToday, Marcus Moufarrige, COO of Servcorp, states that in the mid-1980s virtual offices were “essentially a glorified paging service paired with an address.” From this, “meeting rooms became a natural evolution and a full virtual receptionist service was possible because of PABX technology.
– Released April 1, 1981 The Osborne 1 became the first successful portable computer. It was designed by Adam Osborne, and although it needed to be connected to a power socket, it was still considered a portable computer as it could easily be transported. This was a first step in allowing professionals to work away from the office and, to some extent, ‘remotely’.
– John Markoff first used the term “virtual office” in an article published in Info World magazine. Markoff wrote, “In the future virtual office, workers will no longer be constrained by computer equipment or geographic location, according to this vision. They will be free to travel or to interact with others while communicating information freely. The office as we know it will cease to have the central importance it does today.”
He was pretty on point when you think about it. The office as people knew it back then isn’t as central as it used to be – coworking spaces, accelerators, incubators, virtual offices, all types of flexible workspaces – and digital nomads (travel and interact while sharing information freely) are also rising in number.
– Chris Kern coins the term ‘virtual office’ in his column for the September, 1983 issue of the American Way magazine. Kern used the term to describe the possibility of ‘doing business while on the go’ thanks to portable computers. Kern writes that, “In theory, at least, a portable computer, the right kind of software, and a telecommunications link can become a ‘virtual office’ that travels with the business manager, staff employee, or professional wherever he or she goes.” (He was headed in the right direction if you ask us.)
– Invented by Timothy John Berners-Lee, the World Wide Web is considered as being a key aspect of the development of the Information Age. WWW contributed to the creation of the Internet as we use it today (though let’s not forget that the World Wide Web and the Internet are not the same thing).
– Alon Cohen co-founded VocalTec Communications Inc., inventing the particular type of audio that made would enable the creation of VoIP. VocalTec was the first company to offer Internet phone services and also became the first successful Internet IPO. Today, VoIP phones are a popular service that virtual offices offer.
– The first Internet search engine was developed by McGill University.
– The World Wide Web is released to the public.
– Richard Nissen, founder of Business Space Limited, registered and trademarked “The Virtual Office” with the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. Under the list of services for this trademark, the following were included: “telephone and telephone rerouting services; rerouting of telex and facsimile messages; mobile telephone services; mail forwarding; message delivery and sending services.”