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Sunday, March 11, 2007

UC Grows At VoiceCon Spring

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March 11, 2007

VoiceCon Spring 2007 – Will Its Name Change to “UC” Too?

By now you must have read the headlines emanating from the originally small BCR conference that used to be focused on the PBX and telephone systems in Washington, D.C., but last week hit over 5,000 industry and enterprise attendees trying to prepare for the migration of telephony to unified communications. Don’t expect this to be a comprehensive report, because I couldn’t get to all the sessions that were presented there. The problem is that UC is not just about the proprietary and limited telephone endpoint for voice conversations any more, because all forms of messaging and video conferencing are starting to dominate the business communications spectrum.

However, because IP telephony is a key element of UC capabilities, replacing TDM telephony, both at the desktop and for mobility, is a threatening challenge to enterprise IT and traditional telecom technology providers. Every element of telephony that enterprise organizations have invested in is in the process of change and everyone in the enterprise will eventually be affected. So, its no wonder that everyone in the business communication industry (technology and services) is preaching the gospel of “UC migration” and everyone in the enterprise IT world is listening for the next telephony shoe to drop.

Shoes did drop in Orlando next week and you can read the details in the VoiceCon Unified Communications eWeekly online newsletter or at the UC Strategies web site.

Microsoft Challenges Telephony Industry With Software, But Siemens Counters

Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s business division, highlighted the challenge to traditional TDM telephony, by claiming that in three years, software, rather than hardware, will reduce the average cost of desktop voice communications by 50%, because 40-45% of VoIP costs are in the endpoint devices.

When Fred Knight of BCR asked industry executives to comment on the Microsoft statement, Mark Straton, Sr. VP of Siemens, disagreed, claiming that in three years the IP telephony cost would be only 25% of current costs, but other costs, e.g., those related to integrating telephony with business process applications and other communications would increase.

Raikes was preceded by Cisco’s Charles Giancarlo, Senior VP of Cisco, who also emphasized the role of “open” software and business process applications in IP telephony. Cisco also announced their partnership with IBM to handle the business application software, while they take care of the hardware/software for networking, IP telephony, and their new TelePresence videoconferencing system for maximizing the face-to-face experience.

Another shoe that Microsoft dropped during Raikes’ keynote was the ability to dynamically improve network voice quality strictly through software processing, rather than through the network itself.

Enterprise Responsibilities for Mobile UC

I was privileged to moderate a knowledgeable panel of leaders in the mobile communications industry, which is moving from traditional voice devices and wireless text messaging to multimodal capabilities. Since the flexibility of UC is particularly needed when business users are away from their desktops, the role of “smartphones” is becoming important for enterprise organizations. The question is, what responsibility does the enterprise have for supporting such devices?

The response by the panel, made up of representatives from Nokia, Motorola, RIM, Ericsson, and Cisco, agreed that enterprise organizations will have to support mobile device independence, where individual users have different job needs, plus they want to carry only a single device. That includes using the same device, but with different capabilities, for their personal mobile needs as well.

What the enterprise will be responsible for is the control of enterprise information and access control from a user’s device, so that enterprise security cannot be compromised. Device management services can provide such remote control for a variety of devices that are physically located anywhere.

A question about the impact of presence management technologies and federation with public services and other enterprises showed the need for providing an efficient approach to exchanging current status information between mobile devices. This would apply to both “contact initiators” and “contact recipients” who would need to exchange status information across networks to determine how to communicate efficiently.

UC Is Not Just About Voice Technologies and Has Challenges for Everyone In The Enterprise

The VoiceCon show was overloaded with conference sessions and discussions on how and when to migrate towards different elements of UC. Unfortunately, UC is not a simple technology decision that can be made for everyone in the enterprise all at once, like desktop telephone systems used to be. Not only does IT have to plan how to migrate technologies that they will be responsible for, but also who to migrate and for what business process. This means that business management has to identify application priorities and ROI metrics, end users have to identify what UC capabilities will be useful for their job responsibilities and work environments, and existing legacy technologies have to be supported until they are replaced or not needed. No wonder every enterprise UC migration is going to be different and “best practices” will vary!

Even IT’s job of end user support and administration is going to require convergence and I was surprised to see, that with all the talk about UC and the emphasis on the IT audience, there were no sessions devoted to text messaging technologies (email, IM, SMS) and how their usage and support needs would be merged and consolidated with voice communications (telephony, voice messaging, and speech interfaces).

I commented on this to BCR’s Fred Knight and Eric Krapf, but the very name “VoiceCon” has been a barrier to UC subjects until now. So, don’t be surprised if that name gets changed real soon, as suggested by one keynote speaker at the conference. And don’t be surprised that the business application and text messaging providers will have a bigger piece of the UC pie.

To get an idea of the different perspectives and issues involved with UC technologies, go to the UC Strategies web site for better insights of what UC is really all about for the enterprise.

What Do You Think?

For more insight on migrating to UC in the enterprise, you can review the presentations given by the UC Strategies experts at TMC’s IT Expo last month. Go to:

Send your comments to me at