Unified messaging (UM), providing companies with "anywhere-anytime" access to all types of IP-based messages, has become a "must-have" technology worth more than $708 million in 2008, researchers recently announced.
More important, UM is seen as a more important tool. What once was viewed as a "nice-to-have" application" has graduated into the "must-have" class, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan.
Part of that growing visibility comes from what researchers describe as "the hype surrounding unified communications (UC)." UM is often bundled with UC applications, the research firm said.
As an example, Microsoft Exchange 2007 includes UM capabilities at a "very affordable price" Frost analyst Alaa Saayed told Enterprise VoIP Planet.
The face of UM has also changed. What once linked e-mail, voicemail, and fax messages has expanded, now also providing access to your calendar, on-the-road contact with the home office, video messaging, speech recognition, and call routing, said Saayed.
Despite the bundling with other voice technologies, UM could see shrinking revenues through 2009 during the bleak economic climate.
Companies "may also start selecting products and vendors based on price rather than strategic value," according to the research firm. For example, enterprises may opt to invest in conferencing rather than UM.
To combat such thinking, Saayed recommended UM vendors clearly illustrate the return on investment, adopt open standards, and investigate markets outside North America.
The economic downturn may actually help UM vendors as companies turn to outsourcing, according to the report.
As more companies convert their legacy communications systems, UM may also be seen as the path to Unified Communications or "the answer" for remote and virtual offices.
Other obstacles remain in the path of further Unified Messaging growth. Improved security, privacy, and a higher level of confidentiality are among key areas needing attention, Saayed told Enterprise VoIP Planet.