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November 15, 2007


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Jonathan Tregear

I can't say that I agree with your submarket model of unified communications. This is a contradiction in terms to me. As you've described it these submarkets are not UC markets, but communications markets (i.e. C:Instant Messaging/Presence, C: VoIP/IP Telephony, etc. are communications submarkets). It is not so much that a "UC market ONLY consists of spending on products that do EVERYTHING", it is that UC markets consist of spending on products that tightly or loosely INTEGRATE everything (or some things).

For example, when you can use your IM contact list to invite people to a webconference rather than using the webconferencing scheduling/invitation component than you're talking about UC functionality. Likewise, when you can use your email address book rather than your IM contacts list to launch an IM session with those people, that is UC. The mistake is trying to imagine that somehow your email system suddenly is your webconferencing client. That can't be because the primary functions of those two submarkets (i.e. asynchronous text messaging and synchronous audio/video/data communications) always will be separate communications modes. What unified communications can do, or may be able to do, is establish a unified API that allows the use and reuse of core identity and operational components (e.g. people and resource scheduling) among a set of communications modes and tools.

That's why the list of UC market players who are capable of having a go alone at UC is limited. UC vendors have to first have the capacity to produce products in all of your communications submarkets AND then have the resources to integrate them into a cohesive platform. Microsoft is probably in the best position to do this given that they have viable entries in all of your submarkets. Cisco, on the other hand, doesn't have a viable enterprise messaging platform and would need to rely and depend on interoperability with either Microsoft (Exchange) or IBM (Notes). Google is obviously building out their communications platforms as fast as they can, but still have many missing pieces especially in the enterprise space (e.g. regulatory compliance and enterprise identity managment are critical). Surprisingly, within the limited space of instant messaging and VoIP and audio conferencing, Skype has done a pretty good job of providing UC functionality.

The other option is the creation of industry standard API's with critical mass that communications vendors in the submarkets you list can and will write to. I'm not holding my breath waiting for that; we've only recently gotten the simplest IM interoperability between competing platforms let alone UC integration.

Matt Lambert

A tricky thing indeed then. Onward and upward with the conversation Mike!

I think that Unified Messaging shows us the way, as you have included a segment for what is still usually three different products converged into a single interface.

IM, IPT and conferencing will be three/four solutions but will converge into a single interface in much the same way over time.

I guess it's interesting why we're describing this process of market segmentation or convergence and who for.

Anything likely to converge is the key. Messaging and real time is very unlikely for example.

For prospective purchasers, if they're provisioning any one technlogy, to be aware of the limitations of not considering a converged solution would be useful.

For a manufacturer, the market information is probably more useful from an acquisition point of view....one guesses.

Andy Green

As someone who started writing about UC in the late 90s, this discussion has a familiar feel about it. The confusion over the definition of UC has been going on since the first voice mail/IVR box vendors began introducing early UC applications—CT-based desktop software that was backed up by smart messaging servers. The ground shifted again when the industry exploited the media processing capabilities in DSPs and could present messages based on the device's preferred modality--- text-to-speech, image-to-text, speech-to-text, etc. It was at that last mile marker when I began to hear about Universal or Ubiquitous Communications, which has since fallen out of favor as marketing terms. The new Unified Communications has a more real-time connotation about it, with video and IM having entered the scene.

I appreciate that as an analyst you need to measure this market, and therefore are breaking it down into its constituent parts. The really important advance, I think, is that we now have a standardized way to connect with converged endpoint devices and servers. (Yeah, you know where this is going.) SIP was not a factor when UC first started, it now clearly is. What's the point of these powerful, multi-modal devices if you don't 1) have a standardized way to establish sessions; 2) know what the devices modalities and preferences are; 3) use a single contact address for communications; and 4) exploit presence information? I'll add to this that not having an application server with an open development environment to do all the behind the scenes magic (for example, SIP supports individual inbound voice and message handling) is another spoiler. It is ultimately about applications. BTW: shouldn't we add app servers and SDPs as a UC submarket?

While I can quibble with you that no one has a complete or close to complete solution (disclosure: I now work at Avaya), there probably won't ever be a "single" solution. There'll be platforms that are geared a little more for the enterprise market, ones for the SPs, ones with mobility strength, to list just a few.

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