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August 15, 2008

CTO of NEI Talks About iPhone, UC & More

By Rich Tehrani, CEO, Group Editor-in-Chief, TMC


NEI’s appliance deployment model allows customers to focus on software innovation while they provide the engineering, manufacturing, logistics and technical support services required to deliver a complete solution with lower total cost of ownership. Kevin Murphy joined NEI in 2003 and is currently the company’s chief technology officer. He is responsible for formulating the technology vision for NEI and overseeing its practical application in all product development efforts. I recently had the chance to interview Kevin about the company.
 
RT: What has been the biggest communications development of the year?
KM: The iPhone (News - Alert) coupled with the Apple SDK is the biggest development of the year. The Apple SDK unleashes unlimited application creativity for use with the iPhone. It parallels the IBM PC and Microsoft (News - Alert) model from some 30-years ago, but now applied to mobile devices.
 
RT: How is open source changing your business?
KM: For the most part, open source is a positive force on our business as well as our customer’s business. It lowers the barrier to entry, opens new doors of experience and knowledge, and lets us create and market more innovative applications. It allows companies like NEI to drive innovation using open source components as functional building blocks. It also creates avenues to build more complex, innovative solutions. The only downside is confusion around IP and the many different license models. But, I believe open source will be a positive force on the industry.
 
RT: What do you think of Google’s Android (News - Alert) platform?
KM: I love it. It gives tools and directions to the community at large with a low barrier to entry. There’s no proprietary technology, no licenses to buy, and it allows the development community to go under the covers without having to deal with multiple layers of abstraction.
 
I’ve heard rumors that HTC will soon market an Android capable phone. If true, that will have a favorable impact on the market. Google’s recent Android Developer Challenge is a design contest with $10M in prizes – no strings attached – awarded to the best applications. Events like this are prime venues for innovation.
 
RT: Will the iPhone be a change agent in our sector?
KM: Yes. While the closed nature of Apple Corp. puts the iPhone at risk for corporate adoption; the opening of the iPhone demonstrates that Apple recognizes this and shows they’re trying to find ways to improve adoption. At the end of the day, iPhone is a cool form factor with great usability and Apple is changing what users expect from a mobile device. Everyone is copying them, not leaping over them. Everything about the way they’ve marketed it and made tools available seems to be building its acceptance. There are already innovative iPhone applications. Something as simple as the Cube Runner game leverages the iPhone not just as a piece of hardware to run an application, but as a game changing platform.
 
RT: Who wins in a  Nokia (News - Alert), Apple, SIM war?
KM: Hands down, Apple wins. They’ve demonstrated the ability to be more flexible and better listeners to the user community. Apple is more responsive.
 
RT: How has UC changed our market?
KM: I think the biggest thing is UC’s impact on the storage and security space. At NEI, we’ve been really strong in storage and security. And we’re starting to see a blur – IP-based communications applications with high-end security and storage. The Internet inherently adds more risk for security breaches. And video apps like IPTV are driving the need for storage. More customers are coming to us with a need for a purpose-built box and NEI is in a great spot to respond. This isn’t a whitebox or cookie-cutter appliance solution. So in general, UC is driving the need for more robust hardware and software integration.
 
RT: Is Microsoft’s entry positive for communications?
KM: Yes, absolutely. I say the more the merrier. Microsoft definitely comes at the communications space from a different angle. But their offerings tend to be a ‘keystone’ to a solution rather than a complete, final solution. At this point, anyone’s entry is good.
 
RT: Will ubiquitous wireless broadband help communications development?
KM: Ubiquitous wireless broadband is creating more onramps for more people to create new applications and business models. It’s hard not to get excited about the developments that will drive location-based services, P2P collaboration and mobile rich media. Society is trying to un-tether itself. As this market evolves I think there will be lots of innovative applications within the location-based services arena.
 
RT: How are mashups and Web 2.0 changing the space?
KM: It’s the next step in the evolution of the Web by making content richer and more interactive. It’s creating new possibilities in areas like SaaS, which is right up our alley. Now SaaS providers can offer an on-premise hosted solution (in a SaaS model) and now because of the Web 2.0 technologies Web apps are looking more and more like desktop apps.
 
RT: What are you talking about at the Communications Developer Conference and why should people come hear you?
KM: I’ll be speaking about the transition that product developers will make as they move from complete custom solutions to using more turnkey COTS components to build next generation solutions. Anyone interested in bringing new solutions to market faster should plan on attending. There’s great upside to COTS but there are also risks associated with this model that cannot be ignored. CDC is going to be the place to learn about best practices and the best ways to deploy products to an ever-dynamic market.
 
RT: What is one surprising thing we will see in the market in the next 18 months?
KM: The adoption of Google’s Android platform may be the biggest surprise. With the number of big players in the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), I wouldn’t be surprised to see fast penetration of the market driven by very fast proliferation of apps. Watch the penetration of the iPhone into the enterprise. That may happen while no one is looking.

Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world�s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO (News - Alert)). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.


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