Convergence still not reality
- 26 September, 2006 22:00
Integrating voice, video, and application data may be the utopia of business communications, but vendor marketing about the uptake of the technology should be treated with suspicion, according to a telecommunications analyst.
Telsyte senior industry analyst Sam Yip said after unified messaging and voicemail there is unified communications, but the uptake is "absolutely low".
"Vendors are pushing it, but the channels aren't ready to deploy it and IT managers aren't ready to use it," Yip said.
Yip cited several problems with the unified communications market, including similar vendor products, lack of standards, and end-user acceptance.
"With unified comms you have six main players in the market and they are all pretty much the same; none are really showing any differentiation," he said.
"Ask the vendors how they differentiate across the board, including the SME market. Don't look at the vendor, look at the channel."
Yip said the timeframes for convergence uptake trumpeted by the vendors are "quite optimistic" as there is a whole workforce of "grey hairs" that control businesses who don't understand the technology's usefulness.
"Succession planning is under way and once younger people have control of these businesses they can deploy them top down," he said.
Speaking at the Cisco Networking conference in Austalia on Tuesday, Yip said another problem dogging unified communications is the adoption of SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) as a standard.
"Everyone has their own version of SIP, so interoperability hasn't happened," Yip said.
"End points are adopting unified communications, but it's a pipe-dream at the moment. There is some integration with mobile phones, but it is also still blurry."
Even with individual components like video conferencing, Yip said "the pipes are not ready yet".
Yip said to achieve interoperability between vendor equipment, integration plug-ins are required which involve a lot of time and effort.
"There is a lot more involvement than just giving channel incentives to learn about these things," he said.
Vendors that talk about the 'consumerization' of IT are attempting to market their way out of a slump in enterprise sales.
"Large enterprise sales have gone flat and vendors want to concentrate on the SME market so Cisco is trying to leverage this with Linksys," Yip said.
"Everyone is trying to partner with a smaller company to target that market but SMEs haven't adopted these types of technologies yet either."
During his keynote address at the networking event, Cisco's vice president of solutions marketing for unified communications and emerging technologies, Rick Moran, said convergence will become "part of what the enterprise does" largely fuelled by the expectations of a new generation of workers dubbed "millennials".
"Generation Y and millennials is the biggest group to enter the workforce since the baby boomers and they expect to be totally connected, technology to blend with life, and a world without edges - you can call anyone anywhere in the world," Moran said.
"Before things would have gone from business to consumer but now it's absolutely coming from consumer to business. The video technologies we see today are better bandwidth and people are more comfortable being on video."
Moran believes consumers are changing the way businesses work but "is the business ready?"
"Millennials work any hour they choose and can work from any place," he said, adding these are new business realities.
(Rodney Gedda travelled to the conference as a guest of Cisco System.)