The Only Constant in Unified Communications Is Change

Wednesday May 25th 2011 by Carl Weinschenk

Many of the capabilities that are closely associated with unified communications are becoming available in the broader business and consumer telecommunications and computing worlds. Vendors need to pay attention to this trend.

This InformationWeek article — and the HP Synergy feature of webOS that is its subject — raises some interesting questions for unified communications.

One is pretty basic: Is unified communications as we know it morphing into something different even before it is fully established? Think of that within the context of how Lopez Founder and Principal Maribel Lopez describes a new offering from HP:

With Synergy, a person signs in to networks such as Facebook, Google, or Microsoft Exchange, and the data from these services — such as email, contacts, and calendars — automatically populates and updates the user's HP smartphone. This feature is promised for the HP Touchpad tablet to be launched in June and future HP PCs and printers.

It's a small step, of course, from merely populating the smartphone to doing something with that data — such as establishing presence-based conferences and other tasks that were thought to be the domain of expensive, purpose-built unified communications platforms.

This should get the attention of the established powers. Insurgents may, for the millionth time, be at the gate. Writes Lopez:

HP's comments on adding webOS to everything is a wake-up call to the communications and collaboration industry that Enterprise 2.0 communications is morphing into a world where consumers expect services to work on multiple devices and expect those services to be able to tap into context such as location, weather, device capabilities, and presence. I call this context-aware communications.
There are other astute points made in the piece, which is definitely worth reading.
The point for unified communications is that many of the features and abilities vendors promise often are becoming available as natural organic outgrowths of the increasing power and sophistication of operating systems — as is the case with Synergy — or applications from the App Store, Android Market and elsewhere.
Like all things related to unified communications, it's a bit fuzzy. But the point remains that collaborative, variable, end-point, presence-based interactions between two or more people can or soon will be achievable via platforms that are not thought of as unified communications.
To a great extent, these platforms will emerge from the consumer sector and not be ready for enterprise-level use on day one. By day two or three, however, they will be. The challenge to unified communications vendors is very clear: They need to find ways to incorporate the features and services that are evolving in the hardware and software worlds into their products.
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