Post by Joe Burton, Chief Technology Officer, Unified CommunicationsDon’t take your comparative advantage for granted. Ours is a rapid-paced, dynamic business environment . Whether it’s a small company focused on serving a market niche or a large global corporation, every business has to compete for customers and stay one step ahead of its competitors to maintain a sustainable edge.In this ever-changing global economy, can any business wait around to get outpaced by competitors while they experiment with PC or email-client-based-architecture for unified communications? Can they afford to exclude future prospective customers, employees, or partners who do not use email as their preferred communications medium? Can they afford the 18-24 month wait for a software-client-based call control architecture that will be marginally mature and deployable? Can they really depend on PC”experts”, who are learning on-the-job to implement a business class unified communications solution that meets their communication requirements?During my presentation at Cisco’s Global Sales Meeting last month, I reflected on the power of a network-centric unified communications architecture evident in a virtual communications solution which transcends geography, workspaces, time zones, and cultures. With the evolution of global marketplaces, businesses are looking well beyond traditional channels for customers, partners, and employees. They are looking in different parts of the world where the PC or email has never been, nor will ever be an important part the communications toolbox. As Michael Mace points out in his MobileOpportunity blog posting titled”European vs. American Mobile phone use“, Europeans of all ages (young and old) are more likely to communicate via SMS messages on mobile phones, while PC based instant messaging is mostly used by younger Americans. In India, for example, The Financial Express (April 2007) points out that ,”With nearly 200 million mobile users plus six million new users per month, the mobile user base far outpaces the PC user base, estimated to be roughly 20 million; with an additional five million new users per year.” Can a business trying to win global customers or attract future employees afford to wait and build a PC (and email) centric unified communications strategy? The reality is that if we look at the diversity in communication preferences across different geographical boundaries, we need to make sure that we are providing the right tools to attract future customers, talent, and partnerships. User experience needs to have a consistent look and feel across a wide variety of devices, yet be customizable at the same time. Only a network based unified communications architecture can bring services, applications, provisioning, management, and useabilty together. It provides businesses with the flexibility to choose the”face” they want to present to their customers, employees, and partners independent of their communication preference. For businesses waiting to evaluate PC (or email) client-based-software architecture for unified communications, the opportunity cost associated with this inertia is difficult to justify. I would go as far as to say that for many customers their very survival is dependent upon breaking out and leading the pack -not just responding to the changes in the market but anticipating them and transforming themselves to provide a consistent media-rich unified communications experience to users in all workspaces.