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January 11, 2008

Unified Communications: Time to Move Beyond Talk

By Rich Tehrani, President and Editor-in-Chief


Frank Stinson is Partner and Senior Analyst at Intellicom Analytics a professional services and technology research provider focused on the rapidly-evolving intelligent business communications market.
 
Stinson will present a session entitled Enterprise Communications Market Review at the upcoming ITEXPO (News - Alert) in Miami Beach. I asked Stinson to share his thoughts regarding the IP communications market and what trends were driving the industry ahead.
 
RT: What trends are you noticing in the communications market?
FS: Unified Communications (UC) has generated a lot of industry discussion in the past year, but very little action in terms of end user adoption. Each vendor has their own unique take on it, and potential customers are confused and not sure if they see value. In our view, providers have by and large not figured out how to effectively position and sell the value of UC to those individuals within the enterprise most likely to benefit from it.
 
UC is part of a larger transformation of provider delivery and business models to a software and services basis that will ultimately result in the full integration of communication applications into the broader IT environment. This will profoundly alter the competitive landscape over the next five years.
 
RT: Did 2007 finish the way your company expected?
FS: Yes, IP telephony continued to drive strong market growth in core telephony platforms, while UC remains in the very early adopter stage for the reasons mentioned in response to your first question.
 
RT: Is 2008 going to be a better year than 2007?
FS: From the perspective of the market, that really depends on whether providers begin to demonstrate substance behind their UC positioning.
 
RT: What technologies have altered the market the most?
FS: That would have to be IP telephony, which has been nearly universally accepted as mainstream technology by both manufacturers and end users in a relatively short period of time.
 
RT: How has Skype (News - Alert) changed the telecom market?
FS: Skype has not fundamentally changed the sales drivers and deployment patterns for Enterprise Communications (News - Alert) platforms and applications to date. But it is has helped trigger a larger trend that we think ultimately will, and that is the rising influence of individual employees in selecting the specific applications, devices, and clients that match their personal preferences on how they communicate and collaborate with others both internal and external to the enterprise.
 
RT: How will Apple, Google (News - Alert) and Microsoft each change the telecom space?
FS: Apple is interesting for the same reason. But while Skype is competitive on some level to traditional telecom providers, Apple is in a unique position to bridge the consumer electronics and business communications spaces. Whether Apple continues to focus on partnerships like the one integrating the iPhone into Avaya (News - Alert) telephony environments or ultimately plays a more direct role remains to be seen.
 
There has been a lot of speculation about Google’s plans in this area since they acquired GrandCentral last year. They were already providing Web-hosted desktop applications through Google Apps. In general, we think the Software as a Service (SaaS) model has the most potential with small businesses and individual employees of larger companies with specific needs.
 
Microsoft has generated significant end user mindshare in this space through the buildup of publicity surrounding its UC launch last October. But partnerships with traditional telephony providers are vital to Microsoft’s prospects, at least in the short to medium term. It will be interesting to see how these relationships evolve now that Microsoft has made it very clear that they intend to ultimately compete in their core markets.
 
RT: What will conferees learn from your ITEXPO conference session this month?
FS: My session will focus on how the emergence of Unified Communications applications and new architectural enablers for integrating communication and business applications are changing the benefits enterprises make communication platform purchase decisions based on, and where within customer organizations these new benefits will be felt.
 
RT: Who should attend?
FS: These topics have broad implications to individual end users, business and IT managers, and manufacturers and distributors of communication platforms and applications.
 
RT: What unique perspectives will you offer?
FS: The session will include the results of a series of end user surveys we conducted with TMC over the course of last year to determine what they saw as the capabilities and benefits provided by UC, when and where they intend to deploy these applications, and which providers they are considering for their deployment. We will also be sharing our perspective on how the competitive landscape is changing and who is best positioned to deliver value to customers today.
 
RT: What is the most exciting market change we can expect in communications in technology in 2008 and beyond?
FS: Communications will rapidly move up the value curve from being a technology asset viewed in terms of its acquisition and lifecycle costs, to a strategic business asset that not only improves the way individual employees and workgroups interact and collaborate, but ultimately changes the way enterprises conduct business with their own customers.
 
RT: Please make one surprising prediction for 2008.
FS: A significant number of traditional PBXs and typewriters will still be sold worldwide in apparent denial of their status as dinosaurs.
 
Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor in Chief at TMC. In addition he is the Chairman of the world’s best attended IP Communications event, Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO.
 
Mark your calendars! Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO — the first major IP communications event of the year — is just days away. It’s not too late to register for the event, which takes place in Miami Beach, FL, January 23–25, 2008. The EXPO will feature three valuable days of exhibits, conferences and networking that you won’t want to miss. So what are you waiting for? Sign up now!
 



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