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Archive for the ‘From: No Jitter’ Category

Prescriptions for Cisco, Microsoft, Polycom, Unify, Mitel, and Huawei.

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2014! It’s time for all of us to make some New Year’s resolutions and stick to them! For example, Alex Rodriguez probably resolved to lay off the steroids. Larry Ellison, I’m sure, made a resolution to not blow off his own keynote again this year. I think if we checked in with Miley Cyrus, she’s made a resolution to twerk less…or maybe more since it seemed to have re-ignited her career. For the UC industry though, there are a number of resolutions that I would like to see vendors make:

* Cisco and Microsoft resolve to make interoperability easier. There has been no greater battle to watch in UC than Cisco and Microsoft butting heads. Sometimes though, two enemies partnering together just might create a force stronger than two individuals. Remember when Randy “Macho Man” Savage partnered with Hulk Hogan, and the “Madness met the Mania?” Has there ever been a stronger tag-team combination? Or in the recent Star Trek-Into Darkness, when Kirk and Khan teamed up to defeat Admiral Marcus, they did so because of their combined strength.

Look for video to be strong, Polycom to rebound, and network management to be a growth area–finally.

Well, it’s that time of year again. I’ve broken out my snow blower, decked the halls, wrapped (and opened) presents–now it’s time to put on my Kreskin hat and predict the future of unified communications. Drum roll please…

Video Communications Rebounds
In some ways I’m cheating on this prediction because I don’t think video usage has actually declined at all, other than in perception. The research firms show the video conferencing market as flat, and hardware revenue may be flat, but utilization rates are through the roof.

Frankly I think it’s time we looked at different metrics to determine market share and market size, such as a combination of hardware, software and services. I recently finished a survey asking the question, “How do you expect the utilization of video communications will change over the next 12 months?” and a whopping 90% expect an increase in utilization, with 68% projecting an increase of 10% or more.

A year of M&A activity, executive changes, new products and more.

The year is almost over and oh, what a year we had–some M&A activity, executive changes, new products and a bunch of other events. Here are the newsworthy items and other trends that I thought stood out above all others:

The Year of Lync
Without a doubt, 2013 will be remembered as the year Lync moved out of the labs and into the mainstream. Almost every reseller and systems integrator I speak to tells me that a significant number of their customers are asking for Lync today. Prior to 2013, Microsoft had focused on getting customers to deploy Lync for chat and presence. This year, Microsoft and many of its partners pushed customers to trial Lync voice, and while I think Microsoft still has some challenges with voice, the company certainly legitimized itself as a voice vendor.

Lync mobile also has much better feature parity on non-Microsoft devices, which had previously been a huge Achilles heel for the company. These are the primary reasons that reseller and customer interest in Lync is at an all-time high. Additionally, a number of vendors, such as Polycom and Aastra, launched Lync-compatible phones to complement the Lync-optimized phones on the market, giving customers a broader set of IP phones to choose from.

Solving these complexity challenges, particularly with multi-vendor deployments, doesn’t create a threat–rather, it generates opportunities.

I think it’s time the industry finally called a spade a spade. UC is complex and getting more complex every time we add a new feature or enhance the product somehow. Much of the complexity comes from the fact that these “systems” aren’t self-contained units anymore. Today’s solutions can operate in the cloud, on virtual appliances, as physical servers or on multifunction devices such as Cisco’s ISR or an Avaya IP Office. Additionally, clients can be dedicated IP phones, soft phones, operating on wired networks, WiFi or cellular. Also, most customers want to run multi-vendor systems, and no matter how closely a solution provider follows the standards, there are a number of vendor-specific issues when it comes to implementation of the standard or signal methods, etc.

Now don’t get me wrong, the solutions today have much higher levels of flexibility and agility, and we can do so many more things today than we could ever have done in the past, but there’s no doubt complexity is at an all time high. At Cisco’s Collaboration Summit, it was refreshing to hear Rowan Trollope, the company’s GM of Collaboration, actually talk about how hard implementing UC is for their customers–that’s something I rarely hear the vendors talk about. However, complexity isn’t just a Cisco problem; it’s really all the vendors today, as the solutions have gotten broader and more flexible.

Sales of telepresence have stagnated not because of lack of demand, but instead of because of lack of innovation.

As a technology, telepresence (TP) has been mainstream for about a decade now. In the mid part of the last decade, TP came to life with a big bang that was comparable to what we saw with Tebow-mania. Like Tebow-mania, the momentum behind TP has cooled off over the past few years, and shipments of the once shining star of the collaboration industry have plateaued over the past few years. In football, Tebow-mania is officially dead; in technology, critics of telepresence have been stating that this era of video is officially over.

So is telepresence really dead?

For the purposes of this blog, when I say “telepresence,” I mean the immersive room experience, in which it appears that I’m sitting across the table from one or more people who in fact are located at a remote, similarly provisioned site. While Cisco has tried to stretch the definition of telepresence by branding a number of products with that tag, most customers think of the following attributes when I say “telepresence”–expensive, three-screen, room-based, life-like experience, and easy to use.

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