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The Voice of IP

Inside Facebook Video Chat
The first step of the user experience is on facebook.com. While looking at the profile page or while in a chat, users will see buttons that allow them to initiate a video call with their friends. Those buttons are rendered as part of the Facebook web page. When a user clicks on the "call" button, the page will check for the existence of the Skype video calling plug-in, which is an optimized version of Skype's desktop software that powers the video calling experience. If the Skype plug-in hasn't yet been downloaded, the user is prompted to install it.

Now UC It

Lions, and Tigers, and Interop! Oh My!
You've decided to add the benefits of a unified communications solution to your organization. You're probably feeling a bit trepidatious, somewhat like Dorothy as she enters the dark and creepy forest in the 1939 musical fantasy film The Wizard of Oz. But rather than lions, and tigers, and bears, the real stalking predator that you should be wary of is interoperability. Oh my!

Hot Topic

Integrating Social Networks in Emergency Mass Notification Systems
To exploit these new web-based communication channels, network-centric mass notification architectures are incorporating the power and reach of computer networks and the Internet to deliver emergency alerting well beyond those of traditional alerting systems. The Internet lets emergency managers send emergency alerts via IP-aware media gateways through web sites (commercial, public and government), and by way of social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other non-traditional channels, opening new avenues for network-centric emergency mass notification.

Publisher’s Outlook

Cisco Cius and the Need for an Enterprise Tablet
Cisco has done its best to make the Cius tablet a no-brainer purchase for companies already knee-deep in Cisco hardware and software solutions. Moreover, it really has thought through what the enterprise needs in a tablet. With a huge focus on security, hardware-accelerated encryption and even customizable app stores by company, the potential for this tablet is great.

Editor's Notes

All Together Now
It's July 8 as I'm writing this, and an interesting story posted today on TMCnet, the website/online community hub of Unified Communications Magazine parent TMC, drew me in with the headline: Is Social Software a Substitute for Unified Communications?

Unifying Views on UC

Putting the Mobile in Your UC
One of the core tenets of unified communications is the ability to access all of your enhanced communication and collaboration tools either in or out of the office. However, while all of the UC vendors offer mobile clients (and promote them endlessly), the uptake on the user side has been negligible. While conducting a number of sessions at a recent trade show, I polled the audiences at several sessions to see who was using those mobile UC tools. I found a total of five users, and three of them worked for Cisco!

The Voice of IP

Porting Without Porting: A Taxonomy
2003 was a landmark year for mobile communications in the United States. No, it was not the year Apple released the iPhone, but rather, the year when number portability between mobile operators was mandated.

Publisher's Outlook

Bin Laden's Death, Mobile and Social
In the wake of bin Laden's death it is worth reflecting on how consumers learned about the incident, which was first live reported by Sohaib Athar, an unsuspecting bin Laden neighbor who tweeted the fact that he heard a helicopter and a subsequent window-shaking bang (a rare event as he called it).

Now UC It

Reducing Complexity and Risk When Adopting UC
Complexity… The Wikipedia article on this topic says "In general usage, complexity tends to be used to characterize something with many parts in intricate arrangement." It's something that our increasingly technological society deals with every day, and unified communications is no exception. Complexity introduces risk, and both pose a major barrier to UC adoption, especially for small and medium-sized organizations and even larger ones that are risk averse. How can you reduce complexity and risk when you adopt UC?

Features

Five Key Factors to Success in Videoconferencing
In the 1990s, only one category of business videoconferencing existed: hardware-based solutions for fixed-site installation. Thanks to the Internet, today, millions of people use videoconferencing without fixed-site systems for tasks such interoffice meetings, employee and customer training, and sales meetings.

Hot Topic

Technical Support That Helps Ensure 'Must Work' Products Work
Long considered lifestyle products, consumer electronic devices have become essential business tools. And, because they have become essential to business success, a malfunctioning mobile phone or PC can become a career-damaging event. This "must work" requirement has opened up a huge opportunity for companies in the field of technical support, especially for those that can serve as a one-stop shop for multiple devices and brands.

Guest Room

First-to-Market Hosted, Multi-tenant Microsoft Lync Product Launches in the U.S.
The way in which business people communicate and collaborate has seen rapid changes recently. Workers are increasingly distributed, conducting business from branch locations, home offices and partner sites, as well as from the road. These virtual workers rely on unified communications applications as a way to share information easily and to communicate and interact with co-workers, partners and clients. With the transforming nature of working environments into a more collaborative and mobile model, unified communications is successfully paving its path to the business market.

Editor's Notes

Where It's At
Despite economic challenges, the communications industry continues to move forward on a number of fronts, including HD voice and SIP trunking; and growth in the social networking arena continues at an unprecedented pace, making funds more easily accessible to companies in this camp.

Cover Story

Zultys Aims for Greater 'Brainshare' in UC Market
Avaya, Cisco, Mitel and ShoreTel are the companies that typically come to mind when you're talking about unified communications. But if you want a true A to Z picture of UC today, another company you might want to consider is Zultys.

Guest Room

I see, UC … The Importance of Network Visibility
Consumers rely on their mobile devices for a number of activities on a daily basis, creating an explosion of additional incremental traffic on the network and presenting possible customer experience issues.

Now UC It

Is Virtualized UC in Your Future?
Many larger and mid-sized businesses are now demanding standards-based and software-based UC solutions, often running in virtual machine environments on servers in their IT infrastructure. But UC virtualization won't be limited to use just within larger organizations. During 2011 we will start to see virtualized UC solutions become accessible to SMBs. Across the board from large to small businesses, UC virtualization is adding another migration path for unified communications, more ways to get an ROI, and more business opportunities for a wide range of vendors. Let's see if there might be some virtualized UC in your future.

Publisher’s Outlook

Skype Pre-IPO Report Card
It was back in 2007 when my fellow bloggers and journalists told me that Skype was a dog, had no future, couldn't make money and wasn't going anywhere. I begged to differ. The way I saw it, the company simply didn't execute on its potential. I quickly jotted down 11 ideas the company should pursue, and I even offered myself to Meg Whitman as a consultant to help implement my ideas.

Editor’s Notes

A Pleasant Conversation about UC
It's kind of funny that years after the industry started talking about unified communications there is often still a disconnect about what UC is, what it involves and where it's going. At ITEXPO East in February, Blair Pleasant,

Guest Room

UC in the Consumer Market: Demands, Trends and Opportunities
Based on a survey conducted by TELTUB Inc., 73 percent of participants would like to share photos, videos, links, documents and comments while on a call with the person they are talking to. Eighty three percent of them would also share the attachments and comments with persons other than the one on the call. Eighty seven percent would like to have threaded access to all their messages (calls, SMS, MMS, IM, etc.) in one place. More than 80 percent of users would try a new service only if it costs less than $5 per month (for a complete workable solution). The survey was conducted on 125 participants in the U.S. age 20 to 40.

The Voice of IP

The Many Faces of Video
Chat and streaming are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, with broadcast somewhere in the middle. For a non-technologist, the differences may seem subtle, but they make all of the difference in the world in the quality of the experience. I'm often asked why Skype-to-Skype video chat doesn't look as good as watching an HD movie trailer on Apple. There are three technical differences that account for this.

Now UC It

What's Driving UC As We Enter 2011?
In the last year we've seen UC enter the mainstream with businesses typically having a requirement for at least one UC feature within their business communications systems. Many larger and mid-size businesses are now regularly demanding standards-based and software-based PBX and UC solutions, often running in virtual machine environments within servers in their IT infrastructure. But what is driving UC adoption as we enter 2011?

Publisher’s Outlook

Apple Walled Garden Grows
There are profound benefits to having a central authority manage apps that are available on a platform, such as ensuring applications aren't acting in a malicious manner or breaking privacy rules. But having a company censor applications it doesn't like based on content is problematic for many and runs counter to the open nature of computing.

Editor’s Letter

Take Note
"The market rebounded strongly in the third quarter due to robust seasonal quarters from several of the larger vendors, especially in North America, which was able to offset weakness in Europe," says Alan Weckel, director at Dell'Oro Group, which lists Aastra, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, Shoretel, and Siemens as the top vendors in this space.

Cover Story

A Brief Case of Why More Organizations Are Buying Skype for Business
Skype got its start as a consumer service, but over time more and more businesses have begun to leverage the company's services as well. Understanding this reality, and realizing that there's been a blurring of lines between the technology and communications tools people use in their personal and work lives, Skype has been expanding its efforts to reach out to the business community. And last year was an important one for Skype in terms of its efforts to appeal to such customers.

Story: The Voice of IP

What Is a SIP Trunk?
Last month, Avaya and Skype announced a strategic partnership around Skype Connect. Skype Connect allows enterprises to connect their enterprise PBX products to Skype services, including PSTN calling and connectivity to the Skype user base. After the announcement, I got many questions asking the same thing - what is the difference between this and a SIP trunk? The answer, of course, depends on what a SIP trunk is.

Now UC It

Presence: Old Hat or New Opportunity?
Presence indicates the availability and ability to communicate with individuals (and in some cases organizations, groups, and even things) before you attempt to communicate with them. Presence isn't a new idea though, and has been in use by consumers as part of bulletin board, chat room and instant messaging services since the 1980s. With the advent of Internet-based IM services in the 1990s and social networking sites as we entered the new millennium, presence has become a quintessential part of online social interaction by consumers. More recently, presence has appeared in corporate IM, IP PBX and unified communications client software. So is presence just old hat, or does it represent a new opportunity for businesses?

Publishers Outlook

RockMelt Ties Social Networking to Browsing
The unfairness of it all was all I could think when I had to access the opinion section of The Wall Street Journal via the web after getting accustomed to finding it on an iPad app. Those poor people who don't have tablets and smartphones, I thought, were seeing the web as second-class citizens. After all, the apps I have on my various devices constantly are being upgraded, allowing me to do things like download articles for reading on an airplane where there is no Internet access.

Editor’s Notes

What We Learned, And How We Advanced, UC in 2010
Good news! The percentage of organizations that have prepared a business case for UC adoption increased from 55 percent in 2009 to 67 percent in 2010, according to CDW's 2010 Unified Communications Tracking Poll.

Guest Room

Taking Control of Customer Satisfaction
This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Unified Communications magazine Customer loyalty is always paramount, but even more so given the stiff competitive pressures brought by the current economy. To effectively manage customer relationships, businesses must take control of customer satisfaction. Accomplishing this requires that businesses shape and guide the customer experience and understand the impact of customer satisfaction on the success of the business.

The Voice of IP

The Ten Challenges of Mobile Video
On June 7, 2010, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone 4 to the world. High-definition video recording, a new high-resolution display, a new form factor, and a front-facing camera were some of the new features. However, the feature that gained the most attention was the announcement of Facetime, a video calling feature integrated into iPhone 4. Facetime enables one-to-one video calling between iPhone users with just the single touch of a button. It renders in full screen, and enables the user to send video using either the front or rear-facing cameras (for a see-what-I-see experience).

Now UC It

Will UC and PBX Functionality Reside in the Data Center?
This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Unified Communications magazine Are the days of PBX/UC appliances numbered? Will UC and PBX functionality reside in the data center, embedded within network infrastructure, or within PBX appliances? Several technology trends are now converging that will radically change the name of the game for IP telephony, unified communications and IT infrastructures.

Publisher’s Outlook

Dear Government, Please Stop 'Helping' Us
I have said before that the Obama administration has been the most anti-business of any administration I have ever seen. There is hostility toward success achieved through legal business means and demonization of virtually every profession (except, ironically, lawyers, professors and community organizers).

Editor's Notes

What's Next in Unified Communications
This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Unified Communications magazine Video is both the present and the future for communications.

Guest Room

Unified Communications that's Actually, Well, Unified
The rapid and widespread adoption of modern connectivity is a testament to our basic human need and desire to correspond and stay in touch. Whether by e-mail, voicemail, instant messaging, text messaging, mobile phone or satellite phone - or whatever new method of talking to each other should emerge in the coming decade - we will always need to communicate.

The Voice of IP

Quality Matters
Quality is a differentiator between products in almost every market. It brings customers in, and more importantly, it keeps them from leaving. Indeed, quality is so central that companies often use it as part of their core branding. Ford's branding is: Quality is Job 1. And Zenith's is: The quality goes in before the name goes on.

Now UC It

Leverage Your Business Data with Communications-Enabled Business Processes!
Businesses large and small alike spend a lot of time and energy (not to mention their hard-earned cash) tracking their operations and customers in some type of database. These databases contain critical business information driven by line of business applications such as enterprise resource planning, supply chain management, customer relationship management, or vertical market applications such as those used in the health care and education sectors. All of that data is just sitting there, so why not make better use of it? UC can leverage that data using communications- enabled business processes to improve dramatically customer service levels while reducing costs, with ROIs in as little as 90 days.

Editor’s Notes

Seeing Green
A battle for supremacy between Avaya and Cisco, and an interest by businesses in green initiatives are two of the key trends shaping up on the unified communications front, according to new studies from Infonetics Research and Frost & Sullivan. The introduction of the iPhone 4 also has brought a new angle to the UC landscape.

Publisher's Outlook

The Growing Role of Social Networking in Promotion
The online coupon business is booming and the reason for its recent boost in success is 100 percent related to the economy. On the one hand, customers have less money and need to shop for the best deals they can find. On the other, retailers want to spend money on marketing while being able to generate a direct pay back. Online coupons are the beneficiaries of these trends.

Publisher’s Outlook

Ooma Makes Home phones Better
Covering the telecom space as long as I have, I figured there are few innovations I haven't seen. That was until I took a train into Manhattan to see the execs at Ooma to learn how they are evolving their Telo home phone system.

Editor's Notes

Getting Users Amped About UC & Bringing Streaming into the Equation
Small and medium-sized businesses across the United States increasingly are relying on new information technology solutions to strengthen their operational, marketing and customer engagement activities, according to a new study by CompTIA. The same report says 25 percent of SMBs expect to adopt UC/VoIP solutions this year.

Now UC It

Has UC Finally Hit the Mainstream?
Is classic PBX functionality good enough? Do most business communications systems now need to have the ability to provide at least some aspects of unified communications? It seems so.

The Voice of IP

Social Sharing 2.0: The Rise of Real-Time Communications
You've undoubtedly seen them all over the Web by now; they have become pervasive. They are an invitation, a call to action to reach out beyond the site you are on and do more.

Guest Room

Vote Yeah on MIDs; U.S. Consumer Audience Has Decided
With Android dominating conversations and clearly establishing its presence in the global communications marketplace, I feel confident in saying that mobile Internet devices are now poised - more than ever before - to penetrate the U.S. consumer market.