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“Play Nice”

Post by Phil Heyneker, executive communications manager As has been the case with any industry in its earlier stages, unified communications is still in its”pie-growing phase”. A few years ago, we thought this would be a $19B market by 2010. Today, in 2007, unified communications is roughly a $25B market, and we see it growing another $10B over the next few years. As the industry matures, success for suppliers will depend on our ability to work together in the interest of our customers, and address a few understandable concerns along the way. This posting will cover a few of these industry challenges and customer concerns around UC, and what we need to do as an industry to address them. Play Nice!While we all agree on some common attributes, we haven’t really reached a unanimously agreed upon definition of UC in the market today. In fact, research has indicated that only 10-11% of customers are even aware of UC as a solution set. But it makes sense that this is happening, as dozens of suppliers are approaching the market from various angles. Traditional voice suppliers, network suppliers, messaging software players, business application providers, video players, and mobility players are all doing their best to tell a compelling story that caters to their business. But if, at its most basic level, UC is the integration of all forms of business communications (voice, video, data, mobility), then each of these suppliers is actually quite relevant to the UC industry, each has a right to tell its own story in the space, and each has to recognize the other’s right to be there.For obvious reasons, customers don’t want this kind of fragmentation of the market, though. They don’t want to be forced into making an”either/or” decision on one flavor of UC versus another. They want a solution that works and they don’t want to be limited to a single vendor’s capabilities. The answer will lie in how we build partnerships across relevant technology areas to remove the risk for the customer of having to choose. This is going to require some pride swallowing on the behalf of all UC suppliers, but it’s an essential step in delivering UC to our customers. Part of enabling choice for customers also lies in our ability to deliver them an open architecture on which to build. With UC, there’s no question that the innovation has just begun, and there’s a lot more to come. With as many big players approaching UC from so many angles, who are any of us to assume that the best innovations will all come from a single supplier? Suppliers who force customers to adopt a proprietary architecture for UC are making this assumption and are forcing their customers into that dreaded”either/or decision”. Not only are they choosing the solution to address their needs today but, more importantly, they’re pigeonholing themselves into using that solution to address their needs tomorrow. But wait-.how do they know what their business needs will be tomorrow? The alternative to a proprietary architecture is a true platform for UC, which is what most players in the industry are talking about today. A platform, by definition, is something that people can build things on top of. In the technology world, this means it must be open, extensible and pervasive such that the customer, the supplier, other suppliers, partners and developers can build new and custom technologies on top of it. A platform is not something that only the supplier can build on top of. It doesn’t count if everything has to come from the same company. As an industry, we need to work together and quickly adopt standards in order to offer customers as open, extensible and flexible a UC platform as possible.

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