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December 1998

Tom Keating To: CTI Subscribers
Cc: CTI Heroes
Whither The I?

BY Tom Keating

Some people repudiate the very idea of integration, at least with reference to CTI, the acronym for computer telephony integration. I find this odd. In every other context I can think of - and I read through mountains of magazines, cascades of press releases, and blizzards of white papers - integration is invariably cited as a good thing. And yet, when people discuss the convergence of computer technology and telephony technology, there's always a cohort that would see fit to snigger over what most consider unexceptionable - namely, the I in CTI.

As far as I can tell, those who disdain the I take it as a sign of technological fuddy-duddyism. Moreover, these people would like to have everyone else understand the I in this limited way. But why? My best guess: the non-I cohort is focused on an old issue in CTI, an old triumph, really - one they would like to savor, and savor, and savor.

And just what is the old issue? Well, years and years and years ago, CTI referred to proprietary CTI links between PBXs and mainframe computers. These early links, which were expensive and limited, represented the first stage of CTI. Since then, CTI has moved on to more open and standards-based approaches.

Nobody should underestimate the importance of this transition. But neither should anyone obsess over it. Some people do, however, and thereby expose themselves to strange notions - like pretending the I in CTI was a sort of mythical beast that, once slain, would never rear its ugly head again.

Personally, I see the transition somewhat differently. While heroic, it wasn't so much the defeat of a dragon as it was a touchdown pass at a high school football game. A grand memory, and worth savoring, but eventually you decide to move on. Otherwise, you risk being the bore at the barbecue, bragging about your big play well into (or even beyond) middle age. Now that's fuddy-duddyism.

Wouldn't it be better to recognize that, in a sense, the dragon lives, much as the spirit of adventure lives? Or, more to the point, that the I lives? By all means, let us savor old triumphs, but let's not deny the possibility of new adventures by accepting the idea that the really hard work of CTI was accomplished in the distant past, when giants strode where pygmies now stand. There are still giants, and there is more than enough adventure for everyone, especially in CTI.

For some, CTI is dead, a distant memory of proprietary links. For some, CTI is a remnant, clinging to existence merely as a form of call control. But for many others, CTI not only lives, it is bigger than ever. Many now use the term CTI more loosely to classify any product or service where that demonstrates the integration or joining of computer and telephony technologies.

CTI has become a mainstream term, referring to many different things, such as unified messaging, voice processing, and (lest we forget) even call control. For a detailed definition of CTI, see the sidebar.

If anything, CTI is used too loosely. To determine what someone means when they refer to CTI, you may have to look at the context in which CTI is cited. For instance, suppose someone says "In order to attain CTI functionality, such as call control and unified messaging, you will need a proprietary CTI link to hook into the PBX." The first definition of CTI refers to call control and unified messaging, which are both subsets of CTI, and the second definition refers to the hardware link to the PBX, which is also a subset of CTI. Obviously, one can see that the term CTI can be used to mean slightly different things.

Esteemed research companies project impressive growth for CTI. Dataquest, for example, has stated that the CTI industry is currently a 4.134 billion dollar industry. According to Dataquest, CTI, by the year 2000, will be a 6.097 billion dollar industry.

The Pelorus Group has also completed a study. It quotes a figure of 3.177 billion dollars for domestic CTI revenue by the year 2000.

If some of the most prestigious research firms claim CTI is a billion dollar industry, how can it be that CTI is just call control or merely the "link" between a switch and a PC? It is impossible that these two elements could make CTI a multi-billion dollar industry.

Some vendors seem undecided about whether to use CTI or CT (CTI without the I). This may be a moot point, since most people seem to use the terms interchangeably. But let's look at what may be on an undecided vendor's mind. Let's consider a PC-PBX vendor, one pondering whether to call it a CT server or a CTI server. At first glance, CT server seems a better choice than CTI server, since the vendor is no doubt trying to emphasize that proprietary CTI links are unnecessary with PC-PBX.

However, the vendor might think twice. That is, the vendor might consider whether people might ask about the PC-PBX as a platform for CTI applications. After all, many people interested in CTI don't know or care about the history of CTI, they just want unified messaging, or a telecommuting solution, or whatever.

Personally, I have no problem with using the term CT server. I know what it is, and so does everyone else in this industry. But that's the problem. Those in our industry know what a CT server is, while others not in our industry might think it's some server based out of Connecticut (CT).

But, now that I think about it, I'd rather see the term Computer Telephony Server than CT Server. Too often, we forget that we don't always talk to our colleagues. Sometimes, we talk to people who are unacquainted with our favorite acronyms. So, let's not confuse people. Let's avoid acronyms when we can. When we use terms which the general public and even techno-savvy MIS personnel don't know about, we do a disservice to the industry.

In my opinion, the usage of CT is fine if you are writing an article within a trade publication such as ours, since all of our readers should know what CT is. However, when we address a broader audience, we should refer to computer telephony, or at least refer to CTI, which at least gives the uninitiated a clue when it is defined. That is, it gives people the idea that two disparate technologies are being integrated.

In any case, it seems that CTI is more common in the popular press. LAN Times, Data Communications, PC Magazine, and other respected computer publications all use the term CTI when referring to this industry, or the products and vendors contained within it.

But what about the vendors? Well, even those companies that vacillate between using CTI or CT in their marketing materials seem to settle on CTI when addressing the masses. For example, one company that favored CT in its marketing materials actually used the term CTI in a full-page job placement ad within a mainstream computer publication. The titles included Senior CTI Consultant and CTI Senior Developer.

I would suggest that those CTI vendors which exhibit at computer trade shows such as Comdex and Networld + Interop refer to CTI or computer telephony. Most likely, attendees at these shows won't recognize CT. This goes for advertisements and articles in computer and networking magazines as well. The term CT just seems to baffle people in the general computer industry.

On a final note, I should point out that CTI represents many things to many people. From unified messaging, to call control, to telecommuting, CTI helps boost productivity and make our lives easier. I don't think I'd overstate matters too much if I were to say CTI is, in essence, a call to adventure. The heroes who answer this call, and triumph over their own engineering, development, and marketing challenges, will, in good measure, return a boon to humanity. To all the CTI adventurers out there, I say, as Joseph Campbell said, "Follow your bliss."

CTI Defined

CTI, or Computer Telephony Integration, is the integration of computer technology with telephony technology, both on a hardware and software level, wherein complex communications tasks are invested with intelligence.

CTI is a broad term encompassing computer telephony, voice processing, fax processing, video conferencing, and call control. Other aspects include computer-based fax, Internet telephony, call centers, text-to-speech, voice recognition, voice messaging, and Web-based callback. Also under the CTI umbrella: IVR (interactive voice response), auto-attendants, PBXs, intelligent call routing, intelligent networks, unified messaging, contact managers, LAN-based fax servers, and application generators for designing CTI applications. Essentially, any product which integrates any type of telephony technology onto a computer can be classified as CTI.

How The Grinch Stole The I In CTI
With apologies to T.G., the good doctor.

Every I
Down in CTI-ville
Liked CTI a lot…

But the Grinch,
Who lived just south of CTI-ville,
Did NOT!

The Grinch hated the I in CTI. The whole I in CTI he despised
Now, please don't ask, "Why?" Many have speculated and surmised.
It could be that his head wasn't screwed on right.
It could be, perhaps, that he simply lacked foresight.
But I think now that he had carved out his niche before the nation,
He feared the calls for the realization of integration.

I've heard many theories, why the Grinch hated the I,
Rumor upon rumor across the Internet would fly.
Could it, could it be that his friend named I betrayed him,
Or was it some nasty little troll that did persuade him,
That wherever there is CT, there is no need for integration?
While others theorized that it was the Grinch on that Grassy Knoll,
Calling out for all to hear, CTI is only call control.
And while more conspiracies than who shot Kennedy abounded,
The Grinch cried out, "I hate CTI!" and on a table his fist he pounded.

But most think it was greed that made the Grinch hate the I in CTI,
He was always thinking of himself, always alone when night grew nigh,
For the Grinch was always saying "What about me?" "What about I?"
And so the Grinch thought he had exclusive rights to the letter I.

He could not, would not be integrated into society,
That was something upon which all in CTI-ville would agree,
So one final theory is that the Grinch hated integration,
Because he lived alone, so far removed from civilization.

But whatever the reason, we knew the Grinch hated that word, integration,
And so he set about his mean plan to forever stop its implementation.
He stood there on the eve of CTI Expo, hating all the I's,
Staring down from his hill at them through his tunnel-visioned beady eyes.
And all the while sunlit San Jose shone, for CTI Expo was in town,
The only emotion to be seen on Grinch's face was his big grouchy frown.
From far away you could not see his seething anger, just his one large protruding tooth,
For he knew all the I's down in CTI-ville were busy preparing each exhibit booth.

"And they're preparing for a great show," he snarled with a sneer,
"Tomorrow is CTI Expo, the time is growing near."
The Grinch was upset, he fumed, he was really bumming,
"I must find a way to stop CTI Expo from coming!"

And all the CTI men and women would wake bright and early,
They'd rush to the show, creating a great hurly-burley.
They'd hustle in to see the most exciting CTI stuff,
But the Grinch was pretty cocky, as he sat there on his bluff,
"I must stop the I in CTI, this CTI show will I stop.
"I say to you, 'enough is enough,' without the I's it will surely flop."

"Oh that show floor will be bustling with people wanting to buy,
"People pushing and shoving to see the latest in CTI.
"Oh that show floor madness, everyone so busy, it drives me mad,
"Don't they know this CTI thing is nothing, it's just a fad.

"Pushing and pushing, just to get a peek at the latest in CTI.
Oh how they'll jostle en masse, crowding vendors at each booth, to learn and to buy,
Don't these people realize I'm doing it for them, that CTI is evil,
Especially that I in CTI. Just one letter behind all this upheaval."

The noise would rise up slowly from below, down at CTI Expo
Every CTI man would cheer and clap at the close of the show.
And then the Grich would shrink from the words he had come to fear most of all!
"Another resounding success," they'd say, "We had an absolute ball!"

They'd clap! And they'd clap!
And they'd clap! CLAP! CLAP! CLAP!
And the more he thought of what the I in CTI would bring,
The more the Grinch thought, "I must put a stop to this whole I thing."
Then he thought, "I know just what I will do: The I, I will eschew.
"I'll tell people the I in CTI is evil, the term CT will do."

And so the night before the show's opening,
Through San Jose he went interloping.
The Grinch snuck into the convention center, evil on his mind,
"I'll blot out all the I's," he said, "each and every one I'll find!"

A paintbrush in one hand, and a bucket of paint in the other,
Grinch to himself thought, "This sure is going to take awhile… Oh brother!"
For he saw hundreds of CTI signs everywhere he looked,
Every last scrap, every inch of floor space must surely be booked.
The Grinch painted all night long, painting over the I's, one by one,
It was early next morning before the Grinch was finally done.

But he missed one gigantic CTI sign
There was one he simply did not find,
It could be seen for miles and miles, just outside the convention hall,
Hanging down outside the building, it could be seen by one and all.

After climbing up a ladder with his final target in sight,
The Grinch's heart swelled up with the most sinister of all delights.
But before he could paint over the I, hanging on the outside wall,
Someone yelled at him, "What are you doing?" causing him to slip and fall.

Off of the ladder he slipped, and down to the pavement he headed most gravely,
When to the rescue came this mysterious figure who caught him safely.
Thankful at having escaped such a sad end,
"My God," exclaimed Grinch, "an angel did Thee send!"

"Not quite," said the mysterious figure, "Why don't you recognize me, Mr. Grinch?"
"No I don't," replied the Grinch. "Are you some sprite or fairy from near Ballynahinch?"
"It's me CTI guy!" Now the Grinch was quite confused how his mortal enemy could save him. "Why did you save me, CTI guy - you could have let me break every limb?"

He continued, "You know I hate CTI, especially that I."
CTI Guy responded,
"Oh Mr. Grinch, how misinformed you are, don't be so despondent,
"Don't you know you can make millions in CTI?
"There is so much technology they need to buy.
"Dataquest claims by 2000, a six-billion-dollar industry it will be.
"So many success stories, Mr. Grinch, just open your eyes and you will see!
"I've got a great idea for a product, I'm willing to give you a piece of the pie.
"Join me and become part of the industry known around the world as CTI."

And the Grinch lit up with dollar signs in his eyes, his eyes on the prize,
He shouted, "Did I say CTI was evil? Someone has fed me lies!
"Let's together, you and I, CTI Guy,
"Celebrate CTI products that everyone buys!"

And so our story concludes happily, and with a little luck,
Mr. Grinch will see the I in each CTI product,
Then joy will reign wide as it does among CTI VARs
So, like Mr. Grinch, just stick with the I and become a CTI star!

Happy holidays! And we'll see you in San Jose!

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