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January 2009 | Volume 12/ Number 1
Next Wave Redux

Non-Unified, Non-Converged Mobile Communications

We’ve been hearing about unified communications for more than a decade and today there are some unified and/or converged services I actually use. If nothing else, I receive the occasional fax via email. But I also run three different instant messenger programs at all times, two social networking applications intermittently and other communications applications on occasion. And I still have a home phone, an office phone and two mobile phones plus I travel with a laptop and a digital camera.

“Unified communications” first appeared in the mid-1990s when unified messaging was extended using speech recognition to enable personal assistant functions. Today, depending with whom you talk, unified communications means some combination of telephony, unified messaging, personal assistant, email, instant messaging, audio/ video/web conferencing and/or collaboration, communications enabled business processes and who knows what else. Meanwhile mobile unified communications adds some fixed-mobile convergence to a unified communications system as defined above.

Will this succeed? Eventually yes, for some user groups. But don’t expect to reduce the number of communications applications you use or the number of devices you carry.

There are many ways to communicate, the groups we communicate with are diverse and the pace of change is accelerating. In the past there were just a few universal applications, such as postal mail and the telephone. Today the Internet is well on its way to being universal, but it’s a platform supporting multiple communications applications like email, IM, telephony and social networking. As rapidly as people figure out how to unify specific communications applications, new ones are invented. More importantly, since Internet connectivity is at the platform level, not the application level, we end up using separate applications to reach people on different application networks. That’s why I use three instant messengers at once.

While most mobile devices are little more than phones today, the iPhone (News - Alert), G-Phone and Blackberry Storm, with their respective application stores, show what will be possible as phones become more powerful and data connectivity becomes both open and affordable. Expect mobile communications diversity to outpace mobile unified communications for the foreseeable future. IT

Brough Turner (News - Alert) is Senior VP of Technology, CTO and Co-Founder of NMS Communications (

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