Unified communications: linking devices and industries
By Stephen Measelle
Email, text messaging, desk phones, cell phones, even "smart" phones – it seems that at some point, communications became more about tools than people. Wouldn't it be great if we could simplify, but still keep our favorite gadgets?
The�emergent wave of telecom innovation�will simplify things by coordinating how devices, and perhaps even�people, communicate with each other. The technology is based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). SIP-based software,�residing on�a server or�your personal computer,�senses which device you happen to be available on, and, in turn, routes incoming calls or text�conversations to that device.�The result is that your devices become unified, and accidental phone tag becomes a thing of the past.
But unified communications is not only linking devices – it's linking industries. As a result, there have been some interesting developments in the telecom equipment industry.
Incumbents are jockeying for position in response to the threat. Some are building their applications based on Linux platforms, while others are aligning with the Microsoft platform. This last July, Nortel clarified where it stands: It announced a three-year strategic partnership with Microsoft.
The�trick now, according to Siemens Communications Manager Jeff Demers, MBA '84, is to "leverage what Microsoft is doing, and manage appropriately." He notes that the entry�of Microsoft is "both good and bad" for incumbents. "Microsoft is driving price points�down and expanding the pie." Capturing a slice becomes a balancing act of competing with Microsoft, perhaps by�aligning with smaller players like Skype, and developing applications that complement the Microsoft platform. The word is coopetition: a blend of cooperation and competition.
Of�course, this begs the question of whether the most profitable customer segment, large businesses, will be comfortable handing off something as crucial as voice to a newcomer. The Nortel alliance suggests that Microsoft will need help and greater credibility in that space, at least for now. Regardless, the�June announcement sent a reminder that when technologies and�industries converge, disruption ensues. Stay tuned – on any device.
Stephen Measelle, MBA '06, is a product manager for Avaya Inc.