I have never understood why Starbucks charged for their wifi hotspot access. I understood why TMobile wanted to make some money off of the deal, but wifi hotspots are everywhere. I like Starbucks, but Panera has free wifi, other coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants have free wifi. Heck, I got new tires on my car the other day and the tire store offered free wifi in the waiting room. The Internet is available for free virtually anywhere, so I could never understand why someone would pay $20 or $30 a month, or even worse $10 a day, for the privilege of accessing it at a Starbucks. Well, no more! Almost. AT&T has won the contract for Starbucks from TMobile and they are offering a revamped pricing structure. Subscribers to the AT&T broadband Internet service will be able to access the Starbucks wifi for free. Patrons who use a Starbucks card, will be able to access the Starbucks wifi for free for the first 2 hours per day. Additional time will cost money, but less than patrons are used to paying for the TMobile wifi hotspot access. Now, if McDonald’s would get on the free wifi bandwagon too American caffeine and fast food consumers will be all set.
Microsoft is heavily invested in unified communications and they have developed a fair amount of proprietary tools and technologies- many of which they hold patents for. They filed a lawsuit against Alcatel-Lucent for infringing on 4 of their unified communications patents, and originally Alcatel-Lucent was found guilty of violating one of the four patents. This week the ITC overturned that ruling and found in favor of Alcatel-Lucent. This is following the April decision by the ITC in a related countersuit that found Microsoft guilty of violating two Alcatel-Lucent patents in which Microsoft was ordered to pay almost $370 million in damages. The war is not over though between these two. Maybe Microsoft should just buy Alcatel-Lucent and then there won’t be any further allegations of patent infringement?
There is a rumor in the blogosphere that Microsoft may release an update to Office Communications Server 2007 this fall. The next major release of Office Communications Server is expected to be OCS 2009. However, according to at least one blog, Microsoft may release OCS 2007 R2 in Q4 of this year to update OCS 2007. As quickly as the unified communications landscape changes, an R2 of OCS 2007 would make sense. There are a variety of features and functions that customers want and need, and if Microsoft makes them wait until 2009 or later for the next major OCS release, those customers might invest in alternative solutions that meet their needs now. There is no confirmation of the rumor from Microsoft, and no details currently available regarding what updates or features might be included in R2.
The Gmail web-based email client from Google is one of the most popular email clients currently in use. Using a web-based email solution means that a user is never farther from their email than the nearest web browser. That could be at home, at work, at a public library, or even on a mobile phone. Now, the speed and availability of Gmail can also be leveraged as part of a unified communications solution using Esnatech’s Telephony Office-LinX. Office-LinX allows companies to tie their PBX-based and mobile phones in with Google’s applications, including GMail. That same search functionality that lets users find a keyword in an email from 7 months ago will also be able to help users locate voicemails and faxes.
The Palm Pilot started the handheld PIM (Personal Information Manager) trend, but the RIM (Research In Motion) Blackberry handheld is the device that revolutionized information management by merging it with a mobile phone and incorporating enterprise email on the go. Unified communications seeks to bring that type of on-the-go communications to a whole new level, but the Blackberry was left sitting on the bench…until now. WebMessenger has introduced WebMessenger Mobile for Microsoft OCS, an application for Microsoft OCS which delivers some of the unified communications capabilities of OCS to the Blackberry handheld device. This first generation version essentially only provides IM and IM presence. WebMessenger is working with telecommunications switch vendors to incorporate presence on the phone side as well.
Companies generally have confidential information- financial projections, intellectual property, trademarked secret formulas, etc. But, the magnitude of secrecy and the need for confidentiality pale in comparison with a government, especially the United States government. Nortel has developed a new unified communications solution based on their Application Server 5300, which provides the level of service assurance and security that government agencies, and civilian agencies linked with the government require. The new offering complies with IPv6 and Department of Defense (DoD) requirements for secure, resilient VoIP and unified communications. The Nortel appliance also supports multi-level precedence and pre-emption, a DoD system to enable the most critical communications higher priority over existing calls.
One of the key building blocks of unified communications is instant messaging. Instant messaging (IM) client software acts as the focal point and primary interface for a variety of unified communications solutions including Microsoft Communicator, and Avaya One-X Communicator. IM has come a long way from its early days as an unauthorized rogue application installed by tech-savvy users. Many organizations have adopted IM as a business tool, but most were reluctant and slow to climb onto the bandwagon. Now, IM is the keystone of next-generation communications. IM still poses a risk though. It can threaten productivity. It can represent an attack vector for malware. It can be a compliance issue. Companies can gain many benefits from the effective use of IM, but they need to provide guidelines for its use in defined, and written policies. Check out Instant Messaging Policies Reduce Risk for more details about the issues and what should be included in a corporate IM policy.
Avaya’s flagship unified communications platform, One-X Communicator, now has speech recognition as well. One-X offers a flexible and versatile interface for unified communications, providing access to telephony, desktop video, email, instant messaging, presence information, contacts, and more. Mobile users can now use speech recognition to give verbal commands to the One-X Communicator, enabling them to look up contacts and communicate efficiently while keeping their eyes on the road. This speech functionality is now included from Avaya with no additional licensing costs.
A recent report from Gartner suggested that one of the biggest complaints from early adopters of unified communications (UC) technologies is the lack of standards and interoperability. A recent study by Infonetics Research suggests a slightly different obstacle to adopting UC technologies – they are intimidated by the complexity of UC and concerned about product integration. I don’t necessarily agree. Certainly, at this early stage, there is progress to be made on integration and interoperability. However, I think there is a general lack of education and understanding about how to approach unified communications. The beauty of most UC solutions today is that they can be implemented using a modular approach that lets enterprises leverage their existing infrastructure, and allows them to wade in to UC rather than diving into the deep end. Organizations that are concerned about having to ditch their PBX infrastructure and start over at square one should take a look at some of the training seminars being offered by Evangelyze. A small investment in training such as The Business Value of Unified Communications, or Understanding Unified Communications Telephony can help to provide a better understanding of unified communications technologies and benefits and remove the intimidation factor.
This June IDC will launch its inaugural Unified Communications Summit. Scheduled for June 10 at the New York Marriott Downtown in New York City, the event will discuss some of the challenges faced by enterprise organizations as they attempt to embrace unified communications. The Unified Communications Summit, sponsored by Hewlett-Packard and Siemens among others, will feature case studies and best practices and help attendees understand and overcome obstacles to successfully integrating unified communications into the enterprise infrastructure. You can read IDC’s Inaugural Unified Communications Summit Set for June.