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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Apple's iPhone and Enterprise UC

Copyright © 2007 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

January 17, 2007

Microsoft/Nortel UC Progress Report and Apple’s iPhone Spotlights “UC Smartphones” To Drive User Demand!

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Well, it’s about time that the unified communication “industry” has moved up the technology food chain to the real point of visible value from converged communication of UC, the end point device interfaces that every UC user will need for their personal (consumer) and business needs! Up till now we have been just laying the infrastructure groundwork for the real payoff of UC, the end users and the different applications they will personalize UC for. And we wondered why there was little end user demand from the enterprise market!

Progress report from Microsoft and Nortel highlights need for interface demos

Microsoft and Nortel presented more details of their joint UC development roadmap, where they basically report infrastructure consolidation at the platform level, along with the flexibility to accommodate migrations to new application servers and endpoint software clients at the desktop and mobile devices. Nortel President Mike Zafirovsky pointed to the SMB market as their first target for UC deliverables this year, expanding to the larger enterprise organizations that need to migrate more slowly and “gracefully” after that. The demo they gave to their in-house audience highlighted the power of native SIP-based presence and UC to dynamically switch communication modalities (email to IM), which I describe as “transmodal communications”, in addition to the more familiar speech user interfaces and unified messaging capabilities.

In response to a question from TMC’s Rich Tehrani about the need to first educate the enterprise market, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer complained that “unified communications means everything or nothing” to customers and that the only way customers “get it” is by seeing a demo of an application from the end user perspective. This confirms our view that the value of UC will be reflected in the user interfaces of communication applications, placed in the context of a business process (line-of-business or vertical industry applications).

That is why Microsoft and Nortel will be setting up hundreds of demonstration centers around the world, as well as centers for collaboration as a key step in “educating” business customers about what UC means to end users. Although I asked the question over the web about the impact of new the Apple smartphone, the “iPhone,” upon UC adoption, there wasn’t time to get an answer, so here’s our view of an answer.

The new Apple bringing more innovation to mobile communications?

Well, Apple, no longer calling itself “Apple Computer,” got your attention, didn’t it?

The big splash it made with it’s iPhone announcement seemed to draw everyone’s attention to what we have been waiting for in UC - end-user demand. That demand will come from individual consumer needs (communications, entertainment, customer contacts) and individual work-related needs (desktop, roaming, traveling, mobile communications and information exchange). The common denominator between consumers and business users is the communications piece, and that’s exactly where application client software fits in with well-designed multimodal mobile devices and user interface form factors.

Industry pundits almost hysterically jumped on the Apple iPhone announcement, pointing out that most of the functionality is not really new, having been incorporated in legacy technologies like voice mail and cell phones. They also highlighted missing pieces like the lack of 3G cellular, speech interfaces for mobile users who might need it for hands-free, eyes-free situations, the fact that text input really benefits from a “hard” alphanumeric keyboard rather than a button-less screen, and that “visual voicemail” has been around for years for the few enterprise systems that moved beyond the desktop telephone TUI. However, they also grudgingly admit that the packaging was innovatively well done, the missing elements can be added in a variety of ways, and, last but not least, their device design success will be emulated by the competition.

“Different strokes for different folks!”

The bottom line for all coming mobile “UC smartphones” (a generic descriptor), is that they will come in many form factors and combination of features to support the different needs and preferences of the individual end user for business and personal contacts, including business applications, and consumer entertainment. Enterprise organizations will have to support such end user UC devices and UC in the same way they supported TDM/TUI telephony for universal phone access over the PSTN, except now it has to be multimodal communications over IP and wireless networks too.

The enterprise UC ball is in the business end user mobile smartphone court!

Ever since the IP telephony and messaging technology developers started touting “unified communications,” the enterprise market has been sitting on its hands wondering why, when and how they should start migrating to the converged world of UC. Well, the writing is on the wall, as handheld device designs become the center of attention for accommodating the complexities of converged communication applications, rather than focusing on just infrastructure cost savings to do traditional phone call and messaging functions.

In a recent column (before CES /MacWorld) I highlighted the role of mobile communications as a driver for unified communications in the enterprise. I pointed out that increased mobile accessibility would enable greater contact efficiency and therefore faster task performance by everyone involved in the business process. That would include people inside and outside of the enterprise organization, and to do that means making UC services universal, like good old PSTN telephony.

One of the key assumptions about such benefits from UC capabilities was that more and more people would be carrying personalized, multimodal, mobile devices that would be flexible enough to maximize real-time business communications in any form, not just voice. While UC is useful at the desktop with PC-based softphones and text messaging, UC will really pay off when users are “mobile” and need to switch modalities all the time.


The “UC industry” is making progress by consolidating infrastructure, application, and communication device needs. Until end users see everything at the interface level, they won’t understand the difference UC will make for them. Enterprise management must also see those benefits as well, otherwise there just won’t be much movement in UC migration based on cost reductions alone.

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See Us at TMC’s Internet Telephony Show Next Week!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Read my article on what enterprise users want from UC in the new issue of Internet Telephony magazine.

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