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Arthur M. Rosenberg

[December 27, 2004]

More on "Transmodal" Communication

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified View


Our last article, in which we introduced a new term to describe how end users will exploit the flexibility of converged communications and presence management, generated some interesting feedback and even a new focus for a couple of upcoming technology conferences. We think our new label will be useful just in time to meet the growing parade of new capabilities and services for users that the buzzword “VoIP” may help to enable at the transport level, but doesn’t even begin to describe for the people who may benefit from usage.

“Is That All That There Is?”

It’s been real hard to keep up with all the new industry announcements that address pieces of the converged communications pie, especially everything they label as “VoIP.” Although enterprise providers are still touting the ROI of (limited) “hard cost savings” that may result from voice moving to a common data network, they are also acknowledging the new costs that IP Telephony will be generating to maintain its legendary reliability and security.

While enterprise technology managers focus on cost reduction in their domains of operational responsibility, enterprise executive management is slowly but surely recognizing that the “soft” dollars that, by definition, include revenues and profits that will result from improved operational performance and end user productivity that is fueled by person-to-person communication efficiency. It is in this space that the telecommunications industry (no longer just wired voice) is trying to define the benefits of convergence, and, if possible, quantify and prove those benefits. But, will that happen if you depend only on company network managers to decide the value of new end user features and capabilities?

Since the technologies are still converging and evolving, operational value is now being “piloted” or guesstimated within individual enterprise environments, without the benefit of much experience. You have to start somewhere!

Upcoming Conferences Including “Transmodal Communication”

Since writing that last article on transmodal communication, we have been asked to participate in a couple of conferences that are focused on converged communications and were interested in bringing the perspectives that the term “transmodal” can bring to traditional person-to-person communications.

The first upcoming conference is sponsored by the Messaging Forum of the Open Group, which used to be called the Electronic Messaging Association (EMA). The conference will take place in late January in San Francisco, and will highlight a “virtual,” web-based teleconference session for enterprise telecommunications managers to hear providers of IP-Telephony applications and enterprise users discuss the migration of IP Telephony into a converged messaging environment. Joining the email-oriented conference attendees, will be a “virtual” audience from the voicemail-oriented International Association of Messaging Professionals. Further details can be obtained by going to the Open Group’s web site at:


A second conference in April, primarily for carriers and service providers, is being produced by IIR USA. Under the catchall label of “The VoIP Summit,” this conference will be discussing both the consumer and enterprise market requirements and opportunities for IP network-based service providers. I will be organizing a session that will discuss practical issues with new communication services for enterprise end users, such as “one-number” services. Such services may now interwork in complementary ways with wired and wireless unified communication technology within the enterprise to selectively support a variety of end user needs.

For a preliminary program and further details, you can visit IIR USA’s web site at:



Readers Comment on Transmodal Communication:

In the meantime, there are a lot of obstacles in the way, as witness this reader commentary:


I enjoyed reading your article on transmodal communications. In theory, your assumptions are valid.  However, I believe there are important constraints that must be considered by anyone who is looking to formulate, design and build new communications systems, networks, devices and applications. So, let me play a devil's advocate. 

 - Constraint #1:  User interface complexity; there is a limit of complexity of whatever humans do, including communications, after which our brain just gives up and we naturally look for simpler anything. I realize you may not be a specialist in this area, but any discussion of multi, trans modality of communications, etc., without proper studies of usability and human behavior is just an intellectual exercise at best (is it what we are doing here:) 

Inability to build a proper UI may kill all those transmodal communications at the actual implementation phase.  Nobody will use them no matter how hard you try to educate people. The problem is, you can't re-wire people brains.

- Constraint #2:  All dominant carriers are transport-based and have a lot of political power. This is not a technology or user preference issue; this is a political issue.  Any transport independent provider will have to rent multiple transports from someone, plus they will have to work with device manufacturers who are mostly enslaved by those same single transport providers.  Thus, any multi-transport, multi-device transmodal service provider will be in a tough position. This reality will prevent any transmodal communications for quite a while. 

 - Constraint #3:  You assume that all communications are extremely desirable while completely disregarding such important negative communications problems, such as spam, which crosses all the media (data, voice, fax). Your discussion about presence is a bit naive, sorry. The real issue is that nobody outside a really closed environment (is there one beyond a handful of government agencies?) can expose their presence without risk of getting a lot of unwanted communications, whether sales oriented or malicious.  This is the assumption MS Windows was built upon, an ideal trusted network and look what happened to this glorious plan.  The ability to just sort out good communications from bad will be more important than nice to have, powerful, but insecure "whatever" communications.  And we are nowhere close. Why should we move to even more complex, less secure communications when we can't handle, secure much simpler ones? The more complex the communications paradigm, the harder is to secure it.  Today, we cannot build systems assuming they will be used on trusted networks and then scramble to secure those systems in a real, untrustworthy world

So, let me know if you think those three points might prolong otherwise looking great on paper "transmodal communications" to a more distant future.


Alex Kurganov,

CTO, Webley Systems


Thanks for your questions. The purpose of describing capabilities that don’t exist is simply to better understand how and why technology can improve. In the domain of network communications, there is also a critical prerequisite for new industry standards to allow the technologies to work. We need new paradigms for person-to-person communication in order to move forward, rather than just sideways. And, of course, increased communication accessibility brings with it exposure to abuse.

I am wrapping up things for the holidays and will follow up with you at a later time. In the meantime, I invite our readers to make comment on the issues you have raised by sending comments to [email protected] .


The View from Europe


I read the article and I thought it was excellent. You clearly put a lot of thought into this. The industry is littered with meaningless terms. I have pointed out that IM is a misnomer; it's primarily an instant communication. Same goes for WLANs; they are wireless extensions to a wireline LAN.

Bob Emmerson

[email protected]


What Do You Think? (Again!)

Do you agree that we need better terminology to describe the flexibilities of converged communications? Will convergence between consumer use and business use force enterprise communications to support multi-modal devices and transmodal services? Will transmodal service drive demand for SIP-based multi-modal desktop “hard phones” and handheld smartphones as opposed to PC-based “soft-phones”? What role will wireless carrier and IP-Centrex services play in supporting enterprise CPE transmodal capabilities?

Let us know your opinions by sending them to [email protected]

New White Paper Report: Progress and Direction of Enterprise Migration to Converged Communications

The Unified-View has just completed a new white paper report on the state of the industry and the enterprise market for communications convergence. Entitled “Beyond VoIP: Enterprise Perspectives on Migrating to Multi-modal Communications and Wireless Mobility.” The report was sponsored by the non-profit Unified Communications Consortium and leading providers of enterprise voice telecommunications technologies, including Alcatel, Avaya, Mitel, Nortel Networks and Siemens.

This objective report summarizes the current availability of key converged voice application technology from the provider industry, as well as a realistic assessment of the progress that enterprise organizations are making in migrating to communications convergence. The latter information is based on recent market studies of enterprise organizations from a converged usage perspective. The study provides practical feedback on the readiness of the market for the new IP-based voice technologies.

For a free copy of the new report, go to http://www.unified-view.com


Art Rosenberg is a veteran of the computer and communications industry and formed The Unified-View to provide strategic consulting to technology and service providers, as well as to enterprise organizations, in migrating towards converged wired and wireless unified communications. He focuses on practical user requirements, implementation issues, and new benefits of multi-modal communication technologies for individual end users, both as a consumer and as a member of enterprise working groups. The latter includes identifying new responsibilities for enterprise communications management to support changing operational usage needs most cost-effectively.

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