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January 17, 2008

OCS Exposed - "Assimilation is Essential" - The End of the PBX & Hosted VoIP

By Tom Cross, Technology Columnist

For more than two decades, Microsoft (News - Alert) has been “hanging around” the telephony business. In the early 90’s, Microsoft was a key player along with Novell in TAPI and TSAPI forging new concepts in CTI (News - Alert)-Computer Telephony Integration. It should come as no surprise that they now plan, not to be just another player but to be the dominant provider in the telephony business or how it’s now referred as the UC/UM-Unified Communications (News - Alert)/Messaging business.

Rather than deal with the dinosaurs trying to get them to understand what needs to be done, Microsoft will simply “assimilate” telephony into Microsoft Office and eliminate the need for a separate PBX or other type of telephony altogether. Of course, this won’t happen overnight but most often Microsoft enters an industry not to be another provider but the dominate one. As one management expert said, “why play if you don’t play to win.”
For more than three decades, there has been development on integrated PC-phones. It has been obvious to everyone, why have two devices when one will do. Why hasn’t it happened and why are we still waiting are compelling questions.
The answer lies, in my opinion, not in technology but in distribution.
Until recently and still for most businesses, you bought your telephone system from an interconnect company and your computer from a computer VAR. Neither needed to or wanted to know about the other as both were interested in gouging the customer on wiring, backup, moves-changes, additional equipment and support. With Microsoft’s OCS-Office Communications Server, customers can buy it all from one company, the Microsoft VAR. There is also great incentive for the Microsoft VARs to “assimilate” telephony by selling OCS. OCS gives the VAR even greater control over the customer. It is like adding “pie” to the happy meal. The customer benefits from “one-stop shopping” which, according to all the research we have conducted, is what they really want anyway. Customers get one bill, one sales rep and a lot less hassle. And, Customers don’t have to make two phone calls to get help. They also save money by eliminating often high maintenance costs and really expensive move-change charges. In addition, the user finally gets a telephone that is “assimilated” into the computer and eliminates, for many, the deskset completely. Savings include the cost of the deskset, extra wiring, support, training (they never got any so its one less thing to figure out how it works) and other costs even office space.
What all this means is that the old-time interconnect company, the PBX (News - Alert), hybrid key systems and even hosted VoIP is finally going away. Many of them hate IP systems, never wanted to learn IP and keep thinking it’s a fad that will go away. Those that sell only hosted VoIP will also disappear as customers want single vendor for all their communications and computing needs. This also means huge opportunity for those who finally want to see the telephone finally get “assimilated” PC and the benefits of “unified” communications or messaging finally arrive. With browser-based hosted OCS communications bringing unified communications to any device, hardware dependence is also reduced.
In subsequent articles I will address this concept and how finally AI-artificial intelligence systems can finally be integrated into communications.
In my humble opinion, OCS is the most significant event since the digital PBX and while the PBX will remain for sometime to come, its days are numbered. Now is the time for all parties to get knowledgeable about OCS and where this is going and how to prosper from it or begin looking for a new job.
And, yes the reference to being assimilated comes from the Borg in StarTrek® where all knowledge comes from, of course. Microsoft® is a trademark of the Microsoft Corporation.
Tom Cross (News - Alert) is a Technology Columnist and a regular blogger for TMCnet. To read more of Tom’s thoughts, please visit his blog.


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