One day it will be difficult to understand how anyone got anything done when
e-mail, voice mail, and fax were separate systems, each requiring distinct
skill sets and devices. Unified messaging now brings all messaging
technologies together in a single user-friendly interface, enabling anywhere
and anytime access to all messages from any communications device. Unified
messaging is an appealing concept with broad benefits for organizations of
all sizes. For knowledge workers it provides easy access to information
anywhere, anytime. For businesses it saves time, increases productivity, and
lowers the total cost of ownership of messaging services. For independent
software vendors, system developers and service providers, it provides an
expanding global market for new products and services. Unified messaging
links people -- any time and anywhere -- to others and to critical,
time-sensitive information, increasing productivity.
WHAT IS UNIFIED MESSAGING?
Unified messaging is an emerging technology that enables individuals to
access voice mail, fax, or e-mail messages from a device of their choice,
either on a phone or PC. Unified messaging systems can convert text to
digitized voice, enabling users to check their e-mail from a telephone.
Similarly, it is possible to retrieve voice mail from a PC in the same
fashion as one normally retrieves e-mail.
The unified messaging industry has progressed more conservatively than the
more enthusiastic predictions made on its behalf. Some of the impediments to
growth are technical, such as a lack of open standards and a unifying
architecture to base systems upon. Others are economic as end users seek to
move to unified messaging in such a way as to preserve their legacy systems.
Also, telecom and MIS departments long resisted sharing responsibility and
access to one another's networks. Now things have changed. With the advent
of voice-over-IP and broadband access to the Internet, the data and telecom
sectors see the importance of working together, providing instant access to
messaging, and making people more productive when mobile.
The development of unified messaging has also been accelerated by the
emergence of standards for converting data and voice from one medium to
another. With the rise of the Internet and its standards for e-mail format
and delivery, Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) and Multimedia Internet
Mail Extensions (MIME), it is possible to turn any message into an e-mail.
As long as the information can be digitized, it can be stored and
transported using SMTP and MIME.
It is hoped that as more standards-based products are sold, replacing
proprietary products, the interoperability will allow end users to send
voice mail to different systems as they do with e-mail. Additionally, demand
should be spurred by the fact that the voice mail sent over the Internet is
free from long-distance charges.
The Growth Of Unified Messaging
The market for unified messaging is expected to enjoy incremental, sustained
growth in the next few years. The unified messaging market is comprised of
software and services segments, with both segments growing. In 2000, the
software segment of the market will total $726 million, more than double the
services market figure of $295 million (Table
1), according to preliminary
findings of the Multimedia Telecommunications Market Review and Forecast.
Over the forecast period, however, the services market will be the faster
growing segment, surpassing the software segment in 2003. The services
segment is projected to jump from $295 million to $2.1 billion in 2004,
growing at a 63.3 compound annual rate. The software segment will grow at a
more modest 29.1 percent compounded annually, reaching $2.0 billion in 2004
(Table 2). Overall, unified messaging revenues are projected to reach $4.1
billion up from $1.0 billion in 2000.
A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
"The marketplace is forcing service providers to increase their value
by moving toward converged (e.g., voice, data, wireless, wireline) services
and enhanced service bundles. This enables them to seamlessly integrate the
flexibility, scalability, services, and customer base of the Internet with
the ubiquity and reliability of voice," says Arthur Gruen, principal
author of the Market Review and Forecast. "Unified messaging is
recognized as a key offer for service providers to enhance services in order
to mitigate the margin erosion of network service providers and keep
customers loyal in the face of competition."
Most large organizations have not moved towards a unified messaging
system primarily because of the cost of overhauling their voice mail
systems. Larger organizations with a high percentage of mobile workers would
most likely try it first. In the meantime, unified messaging is achieving
penetration with smaller companies and the residential market.
COMING TO MARKET
Now that the unified messaging marketplace is beginning its growth cycle,
unified messaging solutions are coming to the market in various shapes and
sizes, flexible enough to support the growing demands of customers and
changes in business strategy.
The first group of unified messaging products was developed by vendors of
voice mail systems that integrated e-mail functionality into their voice
mail systems. Nortel Networks entered the market with its CallPilot system,
a Windows NT system that integrates with a company's existing system.
Applied Voice Technologies (AVT) is marketing callXpress, which offers
unified messaging for OS/2 and Windows environments. Lucent introduced
Unified messenger, the first software to integrate voice mail with Microsoft
Several telcos and ISPs, including AT&T Worldnet, GTE
Internetworking, and Infonet Services, are developing unified messaging
services that will be marketed to companies that want the functionality of
the service without the capital outlay. While the ISPs and telcos are busy
developing their systems, a number of service bureaus have been marketing
the service to small businesses and home users. JFAX was one of the first
service bureaus to offer service to the residential community as well as
According to Richard Long, executive VP and COO, Next-Generation
Messaging and Telecom Solutions, The VIA Group, "We all want results
more quickly -- as consumers, as businesses, as individuals. This impatience
for results has fostered a business environment that is more competitive
than ever. In order to succeed in this competitive world, businesses must be
more customer-centric than ever before. Good communications is key to
creating and maintaining customer loyalty and unified messaging is one of
the technologies that will enable businesses to gain a competitive advantage
in an increasingly competitive marketplace."
Mary Bradshaw is president of the MultiMedia
Telecommunications Association (MMTA). The MMTA, a subsidiary of the
Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), is driving the convergence of
communications and computing business applications that has opened up a
wealth of new opportunities for distributors, value-added resellers,
manufacturers, software developers, carriers and corporate users.
Messaging Revenues ($ Millions)
Frost & Sullivan
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Of Unified Messaging Revenues (%)
Frost & Sullivan
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To The November 2000 Table Of Contents ]
Diagnosis: Unified Messaging
Unified messaging applications can improve patient services in hospitals
by providing doctors instant notification of and telephone access to voice,
e-mail, and fax messages. According to Joe Beland, product marketing manager
at Siemens, there are many cases for deploying unified messaging in a
Collaborative Diagnosis -- Unified messaging can be used to
improve patient services by allowing medical professionals to more easily
share and exchange information needed to diagnose and treat a patient. For
example, an on-duty nurse in a triage unit might not know how to respond to
a voice mail she received requesting medical attention, given a peculiarity
she noticed in the patient's medical history. Using unified messaging, the
nurse can attach the patient's medical records to the voice message and send
it to a colleague who is able to review the data and quickly assist with the
Remote Access To Information For Diagnosis -- A doctor, located
some distance from the office, is waiting for a patient's medical image
(PACS) to forward to another doctor who will assist with the diagnosis (or
perhaps make diagnosis while he/she is out of the office). The unified
messaging application can page the doctor to let him know when the PACS
image arrives in his unified inbox.
Instant Message Notification -- A patient is ready for surgery,
but the doctor is awaiting confirmation from the insurance company regarding
coverage for procedures. Or, perhaps the doctor is waiting for some patient
information to be delivered before the patient can be pre-medicated. Using a
unified messaging solution, the doctor can be notified the minute this
information arrives (either via pager or phone), thus reducing the time and
expenses associated with such delays.
To The November 2000 Table Of Contents ]