I've posted a lot recently regarding enterprise social messaging ("Twitter for the enterprise"):
I've also used the term "social presence" when discussing twitter-like tools and their intersection with unified communications:
Right now, enterprise instant messaging is dominated by IBM and Microsoft. There is some enterprise IM that is based on XMPP (namely Jabber), but not enough to disrupt the market from its current duopoly (i.e., IBM and Microsoft). Presence is also dominated by IBM and Microsoft. The need for better intra-domain presence integration and interoperability is clear - but at the end of the day - communication vendors will not be well-positioned as the "master" presence system. That position will still go to IBM and Microsoft. Although Cisco has a broader collaboration arsenal than Avaya given its WebEx Connect efforts - at best, that places competitive pressure on IBM and Microsoft in a somewhat traditional way. SaaS, in-and-of-itself is not a sustainable barrier or competitive differential for Cisco.
So should Avaya and Cisco "give up" any notion of disrupting the IM/presence trend within the enterprise? The door I believe is just about shut but there is a card worth playing - and that card could be enterprise social messaging. Yes, Cisco could do some interesting things with Jabber and its XMPP infrastructure - especially in the consumer world where XMPP is more widespread. And Cisco could have the best shot at aligning SIP/SIMPLE and XMPP/Jingle than other vendors. But that's not significantly disruptive, at least I don't see it as such.
But if Avaya or Cisco were to (1) acquire an enterprise social messaging vendors (e.g., Socialcast, Yammer), and/or partner with a vendor vendors offering those tools (same list but now add Socialtext and others), and/or build their own (e.g., based on Apache ESME or Identi.ca), they could actually "turn instant messaging and presence upside-down & inside-out. For Cisco, this type of strategy might also have synergies with its EOS platform.
Read Twitter Compared to IM, Email and Forums where I outline some of the differences between Twitter and IM. But some of the quick hits are:
- The "follow" concept in Twitter is much more powerful than the buddy list model in IM which hides important community and social networking information.
- The open conversation flow helps reduce the "tunnel vision" impact we often have within the enterprise (see Avoiding Communication Tunnel Vision).
- The "re-tweet" capability helps people (acting as boundary spanners in some cases) proliferate interesting information to different social circles.
- The open conversation provides a level of situational awareness that people can benefit by - it helps them self-synchronize with a conversation flow if they need to involve themselves in an activity.
Yes - there are concerns related to information overload, attention management, etc - but I don't see them as showstoppers.
What if Avaya and Cisco shifted slightly from talking only about communication-enabled business processes and discusses the benefits of socially-enabled business processes (via social messaging, social presence, social networking, etc)?
What if Avaya and Cisco added "click to call", "click to conference" and presence capabilities to enterprise social messaging tools? What if social messaging tools have real-time collaborative options for sharing screens, or whiteboards?
What if Avaya and Cisco offered a gateway/proxy solution that connected public tools like Twitter to enterprise social messaging tools? This model exists for IM and presence today - are some concepts transferable?
Could IBM and Microsoft do this as well? Sure - but it's a bit harder since they would have to deliver something that undermines current market share. And the underlying architecture of these systems are not easily updated to support social messaging. Microsoft could do something with the technology acquired from Parlano (persistent group chat was part of the OCS R2 release) but Microsoft's focus is so heavily on telephony that it's hard to see this capability causing them too much concern. The "law of big numbers" keeps them focused on OCS and its VoIP maturity.
What about Jive and its Ignite platform? Sure - Jive is "that other XMPP vendor" - but do they want to go down this path? It might distract them from the headway they are making with Clearspace - but clearly they could follow in the footsteps of other vendors bringing social messaging to the enterprise.
What about Oracle? Sure, internally they have a similar solution called Ora Tweet, but I don't see this type of effort on their radar screen in the short run. Ditto for SAP although the ESME project has roots in the SAP ecosystem.
Vendors trying to compete with IBM and Microsoft in the UC space need to change the conversation when it comes to instant messaging and presence. Enterprise social messaging is one way to get people to think of real-time communication differently.