IP Telephony got Unified and now UC goes Mobile!
Unified Communications is about collaboration and collaborative business processes. It’s about connecting people to information through the use of applications on open and private networks. Unified Communications is really about having the ability to communicate whenever and wherever, utilizing such features as single number reach, presence and messaging. A growing trend of collaboration applications, virtual workspaces and mobile integration all have inherent value to reduce costs, decrease the need for travel and improve employee efficiency. Work is no longer confined to a single place and hand sets are no longer required to communicate. With the downturn of the economy and tighter IT spending, companies are looking for ways to reduce cost and consolidate hardware. Considering whether users need a desk phone and a mobile device, often ranging from three to several hundred dollars per unit, consolidation seems inevitable. A recent article published by Gartner predicts by year end 2013, it is expected that 40 percent of enterprise workers will have abandoned or removed their desk phone. As the article points out, this will not be an easy challenge where there will be some resistance from older generation ‘legacy’ workers preventing change. There will be other challenges to consider, such as battery life, voice quality, enhanced presence and federation, carrier exclusive partnerships, compatibility, 3G availability (e.g. 3G isn’t available in India), device CPU and memory.In a study last year, smart phones made up about 14% of all mobile devices shipped globally and they are expected to increase to more than 17% of the total in 2009 according to new projections from ABI Research Inc. in New York.Mobile smart phones which have capabilities offering enterprise level communications and PC-like functionality such as email, conferencing and calendaring some consider will replace the desk phone. The list of features on smart phones that are important to enterprise end users includes “push-based” e-mail (mail that is delivered instantly as oppose to manually being fetched by the mail client at set intervals), calendar and contact management. BlackBerry and Good Technologies offer such “push-based” email service. Apple recently released the software development kit (SDK) which enables external developers to build third-party applications that will greatly expand the device’s potential as a business tool plus mollify some enterprise IT concerns. Considering the AppStore only opened in January (2009), Apple has already passed over the 20,000 applications mark with many focused on enterprise level communications. Google is poised to start offering premium applications through Google Market and Nokia is rumored to be joining the likes of Apple, Google, RIM and Samsung to launch its application store.Cisco continues to offers a variety of mobile solutions such as dual-mode, where devices seamlessly make voice calls, connect and transfer from a private Wi-Fi network (WLAN) to a public cellular network and vice versa. Cisco Dual-Mode Device Partners include Intermec, Nokia and RIM. Cisco also offers the Cisco Unified Mobile Communicator (CUMC) that offer features such as visual voicemail, corporate directory access and enterprise call log. CUMC also includes presence if integrated with Cisco Unified Presence Server (CUPS). Cisco recently began offering software-as-a-service (SaaS) mobile solutions by way of the Cisco WebEx Meeting Center application on the iPhone. The iPhone application is used to present information, share applications, and collaborate on projects with customers, partners, and employees around the globe, in real-time. The Cisco WebEx Meeting Center also supports “dusting” by seamlessly transferring WebEx Meeting Center and Cisco Unified MeetingPlace conferencing sessions from an iPhone to Mac or PC and vice versa. Cisco is not the only vendor pushing enterprise collaboration to the smart phones, Avaya one-X Mobile enables a mobile phone to have access to enterprise telephony features like multiparty conferencing, multilevel transfer, extension dialing, mute, hold and many others when using a telephony integration deployment. Features also include visual voicemail, corporate directory access, dial-by-PBX, enterprise call log, and user-controlled call routing. Avaya one-X Mobile integration support includes Symbian, Windows Mobile, RIM, iPhone, Palm, Java, and WAP. Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile also offers a similar enterprise capabilities that extends instant messaging and presence awareness of its Live Communications Server to smart phones based on the Windows Mobile operating system. MOC Mobile allows LCS users to make voice over IP calls from Wi-Fi enabled Windows Mobile phones to PCs and vice versa while within the corporate networkThe question remains will the ‘desk phone’ be replaced, will ‘smartphones’ gain market share, or will the ‘PC’ dominate the way we communicate, or will they all co-exist? The answer is to make Unified Communications ubiquitous through all devices such as desk phones, mobile phones and PCs.by Dave Turner, Advanced Services Delivery Manager, Cisco