Unified Communications: Hype and Promise
Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp. and other players have bet big on unified
communications (UC), touting it as another in a line of Next Big Things.
Consider Cisco's purchase
last week of Jabber, a privately held purveyor of instant messaging (IM) and
presence technologies. Jabber complements Cisco's quiver of telephony, VoIP,
Web conferencing and other UC technologies, according to industry watchers.
While UC might have what it takes, Next Big Thing-wise, it'll first have to
grow up. And if market watcher In-Stat is right, that could take awhile: Thanks
to vendor hype, misleading uptake numbers and an exceptionally broad definition
of what actually constitutes "unified communications," full-fledged UC adoption
(and the transformation of the people-and-process and business-to-business statuses
quo it promises to bring with it) might not be a reality for another generation.
"Real transformational changes will take more time, perhaps even a generation,
to accomplish," said In-Stat analyst David Lemelin in a statement. "But, it's
possible that a new generation, dubbed 'Millennials,' bringing to the workplace
communications habits formed in their early years -- text messaging, social
networking, blogging, etc. -- portends more rapid adoption."
Vendors like to trumpet impressive UC adoption numbers -- such as claims that
half or more than half of enterprises are at some stage (evaluation, purchasing,
implementation) of UC or UC applications. These statistics are misleading, however,
because they include bona-fide UC baby-steps -- such as subscription to a Web
Nevertheless, In-Stat predicts, UC is poised for take-off: by 2012, UC revenues
could reach $18 billion. And while there's a surfeit of vendor-driven hype and
uptake inflation in the UC segment, VoIP messaging itself is a relatively mature
technology, according to In-Stat.
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.