Unified Communications Nation

June 12, 2015  2:46 PM

Microsoft Outlook and the inside collaboration app conundrum

Luke O'Neill Luke O'Neill Profile: Luke O'Neill
Cisco, Collaboration, Collaboration software, Collaboration tools, Email, Messaging, Microsoft, Microsoft Outlook, Social collaboration

Collaboration applications are the hot thing right now in unified communications.

The big collaboration apps seemingly do it all. They offer an easy-to-use, consistent and persistent workspace that features video conferencing, instant messaging, file sharing, screen sharing and mobility, among other things. The idea is for co-workers to live in these spaces to get work done together.

But what’s missing? Email. Namely, the ability to collaborate outside your company is lacking.

We recently chatted with Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Nemertes Research, to try to make sense of this collaboration craze. Among his many good points, one in particular stood out: Microsoft Outlook, the simple communications tool that the majority of workers use religiously every day, is a key cog in this collaboration clamor.

“For Cisco, they have to find some way of competing on a broader scale with Microsoft than just in the voice and video market,” Lazar said. “People spend a lot of time in Outlook. And Cisco, for years now, is saying, ‘How do we get people out of Outlook and into something else?’ ”

If users live in Outlook, that means they have Microsoft licenses, which also gives them access to other capabilities like voice, desktop video and Web conferencing. So the process becomes a natural progression into the Microsoft suite, Lazar said, which steers users away from Cisco collaboration tools.

Cisco products have plug-ins for Outlook. And Cisco Jabber, one of the company’s collaboration tools, recently added text messaging outside the company network. But as a universal collaboration tool, especially outside your organization, email is still persevering.

Smaller apps’ big influence
In response to newer companies flooding the collaboration market with smaller apps, Cisco recently unveiled Spark, while Microsoft retooled Lync as Skype for Business and introduced Groups, another collaboration tool that includes an inbox, calendaring, file sharing and quick messaging.

Lazar does think smaller collaboration apps, like Slack and Glip, can challenge the larger incumbent vendors.

Slack RGBLogo_green_300

“I think they are competitive,” he said, “and that’s why Cisco spent a lot of time, effort and money to build Spark because they’re trying to find some way to finally replace Outlook as the thing that people spend most of their day living in.” (Again, it comes back to Outlook.) “I do think the [new] tools have a lot of potential to severely disrupt the market.”

Fast forward two years from now and Cisco Spark will probably replace Cisco Jabber, Lazar added.

Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, agreed that “a new lightweight breed of real-time communications” is challenging big vendors. At the same time, he said, persistent chat is making a huge comeback — from its late ’90s popularity — with tools like Slack, Glip, HipChat, Convo, Flowdock and others.

Lepofsky said with all the collaboration offerings, both big and small, some of the questions customers need to ask is: Do you want presence, chat and video conferencing as part of an integrated vendor suite, or do you want to go with a smaller vendor and hope it integrates with the rest of your enterprise software?

The bottom line: The market is indeed muddled as users wade through many options. But, like with most technology, find what suits you.

April 28, 2015  10:42 AM

YouTube influences video content management in the enterprise

Katherine Finnell Katherine Finnell Profile: Katherine Finnell
Unified Communications, Video, YouTube

Enterprises looking to deploy a video content management system should take a page out of YouTube’s book.

While video content management allows organizations to store videos, create content and interact with content, employees expect a video management system to have the easy accessibility of YouTube.

In a recent Polycom webinar on video content management, Aragon Research Lead Analyst David Mario Smith discussed what he called the “YouTube effect” in the enterprise.

He said YouTube is “starting to creep into the enterprise” as employees are searching the site for tutorials and how-to videos. Enterprises can take advantage of this trend with a video content management system that makes it easy to store and access content and lets employees engage and create content.

But organizations shouldn’t just use video for video’s sake, they need to put video where it matters to achieve specific business goals, Smith said.

Beyond mimicking YouTube’s easy accessibility, enterprises should look to video content management features like the ability to broadcast and record a livestream and extend to mobile devices. Enterprises also should determine the level of interactivity they want employees to have — whether it’s the ability to comment on a video or provide them access to experts featured in a video.

Analytics is another important feature of video content management. With analytics, enterprises can understand how well a video is performing, how their employees are interacting with video content and how video is impacting business goals.

In the webinar, Cara Daly, senior products manager at Polycom, outlined four use cases that could benefit from video content management.

  • Corporate communications: Create a better connected organization
    • Provide employees easier access to the organization’s brand
    • Publish and syndicate videos easily — from polished campaign videos to employee-generated content
    • Push and prioritize mission-critical content or highlight featured content
  • Training departments: Develop talent without disrupting day-to-day workflows or being constrained by a budget
    • Capture instructor presentations, slides and Q&A sessions
    • Expand access to training course inventory
    • Asynchronous training improves work/life balance
  • Lines of Business: Foster innovation and reduce time-to-market through the collection and management of knowledge
    • Share best practices and document complex tasks
    • Boost post-meeting productivity
    • Overcome scheduling and time-zone changes
  • C-level executives: Need to engage employees with the commitment to drive toward the organization’s strategic vision
    • Extend the reach of leadership to everyone, everywhere
    • Adapt quickly to changing market positions
    • Enhance corporate culture

“It’s really about knowledge sharing and enabling that valuable asset of knowledge to be moved quickly and easily through the organization for a more connected and informed culture,” Daly said.

April 16, 2015  9:50 AM

Mobility sparks ‘wonderful disruption’ in our lives, work

Luke O'Neill Luke O'Neill Profile: Luke O'Neill
Enterprise mobility, Mobile, Mobile devices, Mobility, Unified Communications

The power and proliferation of mobile devices are not new concepts. But stepping back and evaluating the mobility market and its staggering numbers – and what it all means for unified communications – can be eye-opening.

Mobility and its influence on the UC market was a focal point of Google’s keynote address last month at Enterprise Connect. Google for Work’s technology evangelist Adam Swidler said mobile devices are causing a “wonderful disruption” in the way we live and work.

Swidler cited a study by Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz called “Mobile is Eating the World,” which has some revealing findings. Namely, smartphones and tablets have far surpassed laptops and PCs in sales and shipments – and the changeover has been rapid and dramatic. Mobile devices are now nearly half of all consumer electronics sales.

The mobility market has seen dramatic growth since 2007 when the iPhone launched. Android launched a year later, and the iPad was released in 2010. Part of what’s fueling mobile growth, said Swidler, is the refresh cycle for mobile devices is usually every two years, while users may buy a new PC just every five years.

With the advent of iOS and Android, Microsoft in particular has been significantly disrupted from its leadership position, said Swidler, citing the Evans study. In early 2009, Microsoft was on more than 90 percent of the personal computing devices that were sold. Since then, with the popularity of iPhone and Android devices, Microsoft now represents less than 25 percent of the devices sold.

This dramatic shift, according to the Evans study, is expected to continue over the next five years as another billion people come online – and virtually all of them will do so on smartphones.

Additionally, a younger generation of workers, who grew up with mobile technology, will only add to the mobile momentum as they join the workforce in the coming years. Teenagers, noted Swidler, simply don’t use email today and don’t make or take phone calls. They text.

Mobile promotes productivity
So what does this mean for UC? Swidler cited research by Steven Sinofsky, former president of Microsoft’s Windows division, on how mobile technology fosters a culture of “continuous productivity” and impacts organizational structures.

Mobility, said Swidler, puts a focus on faster problem-solving and execution among team members. Mobile technologies can also allow outside perspectives into your organization – and that’s a good thing.

“There’s a clear rise and need to communicate with the outside and bring the value they can provide into your organization,” said Swidler. “It probably seems uncomfortable to think you might have the same chat message intimacy with your customers that you do with your co-workers. But think how great an experience that is for your customers. Let them chat with you.”

This mobile modernization is also inverting company launches and collaboration, said Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Nemertes Research.

“It’s usually desktop first, phone first, video room first and app second,” said Lazar. “Now mobile apps have feature parity right out of the box or feature superiority in some cases – that’s a very different mindset for the collaboration industry.”

Google searches for enterprise niche
Google’s presence at Enterprise Connect this year was intriguing. The Internet giant didn’t have a new product to pitch, and they didn’t even have a booth. This year, however, marked the first time Google delivered a keynote address at the conference. So it makes you wonder if we’ll be seeing more from Google in the business communications space.

Don’t expect Google to rival Cisco or Microsoft in the UC market, and I would guess Google is fine with that. Google’s focus perhaps might be just on small businesses – and there are plenty of those. Small businesses, after all, probably can’t afford a big, expensive video conferencing service and would opt for Google Hangouts instead.

In his speech, Swidler did spotlight some of Google’s achievements in the business communications market – most notably Hangouts and Google apps.

February 12, 2015  5:43 PM

New Plantronics devices address UC noise

Katherine Finnell Katherine Finnell Profile: Katherine Finnell
Collaboration, Headsets, Mobility, Unified Communications

While on a phone or video call, it’s pretty common to pick up some background noise — whether it’s dogs barking, car horns blaring or a co-worker’s goofy ringtone.

As offices become more open and workers become increasingly mobile, background noise is a new challenge facing collaboration. Plantronics is targeting this problem of UC noise with four new audio devices announced earlier this month.

“Everywhere is the new workplace. We know office noise is increasingly becoming a concern due to more open working environments that promote collaboration, but workplace noise isn’t just a problem for those in the office,” said Bill Loewenthal, vice president of enterprise product solutions at Plantronics, in a statement. “You can’t always control your environment and you certainly can’t control your caller’s environment.”

Users are demanding tools that promote seamless collaboration. If someone on a call can’t be heard because of background noise, users can’t effectively collaborate. It’s that simple.

“There’s been increasing emphasis on the importance of a reliable, high-quality, seamless user experience when communicating and collaborating today,” said Rich Costello, senior research analyst for unified communications at IDC. Plantronics’ new devices aim to reduce background noise for users on audio or video calls and increase the clarity of their voices, whether they’re at their desk or on the road.

The new products from Plantronics are:

Blackwire 725, a corded stereo headset with noise-canceling technology, is geared toward workers in open or collaborative workspaces who make PC-based calls. In addition to reducing outside noises, the device’s headset includes a noise-canceling microphone that diminishes noise on the user’s end of a call. The Blackwire 725 is available now and retails at $179.

Voyager Edge UC is a mobile headset for workers who take calls on their mobile devices, from their phone to their laptop. The headset includes three microphones that reduce noise caused by outside elements like wind. The Voyager Edge UC is available now and retails at $199.

Calisto 610 is a speakerphone that allows for mobile conference calls with small groups of people. The speakerphone includes a noise-canceling, omni-directional microphone and can integrate with a user’s softphone. The Calisto 610 is available now and retails for $99.

Clarity 340 is a handset phone designed for workers with vision, hearing or dexterity challenges. The phone includes sound amplification, large buttons for dialing and a large display. The phone is compatible with hearing-aids. The Clarity 340 will be available in March and will retail for $149.

November 24, 2014  9:21 AM

Mitel backs off its ShoreTel domination plans, but should customers still be worried?

Gina Narcisi Gina Narcisi Profile: Gina Narcisi
Mitel, ShoreTel, UCaaS, Unified Communications

Mitel has officially shelved its plans for a ShoreTel takeover.

Mitel pulled its third acquisition proposal — several days prior to the Nov. 20 deadline — due to ” the repeated refusal of ShoreTel’s Board of Directors to engage in discussions of any kind regarding a potential transaction,” according to a press release from Mitel.

The UC vendor came forward with an unsolicited bid to buy ShoreTel for $540 million back in November, which ShoreTel scoffed at. In a press release, ShoreTel’s board of directors said it “unanimously” concluded that “Mitel’s proposal significantly undervalues ShoreTel and fails to reflect the upside of ShoreTel’s growth initiatives and technology developments.”

Mitel was unfazed at first, following up with two more offers. The final bid would have put the buyout at $574 million. When ShoreTel still refused to entertain the idea, Rich McBee, Mitel’s CEO, brazenly wrote a letter to ShoreTel’s board, noting that since the board wouldn’t engage with him, he had approached unnamed large ShoreTel shareholders independently regarding the acquisition.

In the end, however, Mitel has decided to take its offer off the table.

Mitel has good reason for wanting ShoreTel. While Mitel’s UC products are popular in Canada and Europe, ShoreTel has a solid customer base in the U.S. ShoreTel also has a very strong UCaaS offering — ShoreTel Sky — which is especially appealing at a time when businesses are becoming very interested in the prospect of moving their communication off-premises.

Since cloud-based UC is gaining popularity very rapidly in the telephony market and ShoreTel is a little ahead of the game in that space, Mitel’s proposal makes sense, said Joe Rittenhouse, president of business development for Converged Technology Professionals Inc., a technology consulting firm and ShoreTel partner. “It’s something worthy of acquiring, but I’m glad it didn’t happen,” he said.

With formidable leaders in the UC space — including Cisco and Microsoft — smaller vendors are forced to fight over scraps. Mitel’s unsolicited offers may have created uncertainty among prospective ShoreTel customers, causing them to worry about Mitel discontinuing or ending support of Shoretel equipment. ShoreTel customers may also have worried about a forced migration to Mitel products. Such doubts could cut ShoreTel off at the knees in an already competitive UC market.

“[The bid] caught us off guard, that’s for sure. It made us reevaluate where we were and where the industry is headed,” Rittenhouse said. “But if anything, in the end, it reaffirmed the position we’re going in as far as offering cloud services.”

Rittenhouse said that existing ShoreTel customers probably felt more confident about their investments after seeing ShoreTel’s reaction to the Mitel offers. “We were actually concerned it would have a negative effect, but because ShoreTel rejected [the bids] so quickly, our existing [customer] base wasn’t worried,” he said.

But just because Mitel has called it quits, doesn’t mean other suitors won’t step up to the plate for a chance at ShoreTel. Consolidation is a certainty in the already crowded UC market.

“I think there is going to be consolidation eventually, but ShoreTel is also carving out what will be a niche market and good hybrid approach, so I think that would be giving up before they had a chance to play the game,” Rittenhouse said.

August 13, 2014  6:26 PM

When the PSTN leaves, will your phone number stay?

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter
IP telephony, PSTN, telecom service providers, Unified Communications

telephone numbers As the public switched telephone network (PSTN) blinks out of existence, carriers are left wondering what will become of it’s by-product: the telephone number. Will it go down with the ship, or will it become the life raft — connecting islands of communications?

I called on Voxbone’s vice president of Strategic Alliances, Hugh Goldstein, to answer this question. He took part in a panel discussion yesterday at ITEXPO in Las Vegas on the future of the phone number. Here’s what he had to say:

How will telephone numbers be common denominators between networks?

Hugh Goldstein: Voxbone has a big vested interest in this question because we’ve built a business around telephone numbers. The thing is that telephone numbers are very useful, yet they’re linked to this legacy system that a lot of thought leaders in the industry believe will eventually go away. So there’s a big debate from people at industry conferences on what the future will look like for telephone numbers. For the next 10-20 years, I expect everyone is going to continue to see telephone numbers in their daily lives. Part of the reason is that it’s the common denominator between networks. When we have islands of IP communications we can use any [connector] you like — some SIP networks use email-address-like identifiers. If you have a provider, whether it be an over-the-top (OTT) service like Skype, or you have an enterprise that’s built its own private network, they can use [that identifier language] within their own island. But when they want to go outside of that island, the telephone number is the common denominator. That’s what everyone uses to find the destination for a call to make communication work.

What might be the long term solution for connecting disparate communication systems?

Goldstein: Long term, there might be other systems that become popular. But at this point in time it’s difficult for any one new paradigm to really take a strong position unless there is a huge critical mass of customers just getting on board with it. Even though Skype has many hundreds of millions of users, there’s not any big push to make a Skype ID the new telephone number, because it’s attached to one individual company and it’s proprietary. Telephone numbers are international, regulated — the property of countries essentially — and they’re managed by international organizations regulators, so they’re viewed as being neutral. That’s a very strong attribute, even though we’re seeing lots of ideas come about. It’s still the telephone number that sits in front of a lot of IP services today.

Why might telephone numbers be replaced?

Goldstein: If there’s a complaint about telephone numbers, it’s that they’re not that easy to remember by people. People prefer language-based things. [But] if that’s the complaint of telephone numbers, an IP address of the length of IPv6 complexity would be worse. We all have lots of other different identifiers that are useful for us, like Facebook names, email addresses, [and] Skype names, but the telephone number is something that can link everything together.

How are telephone numbers being used as the common denominator between networks today? 

Goldstein: One thing we find in our business [for OTT providers] is that businesses like to have numbers in different geographies. It’s something that helps them deal with global markets. So if you run a business in L.A. and you sell to people in Japan, France and Brazil, [and] if you only put an L.A. number there, it’s still difficult for people around the world to call an L.A. number. It’s a perceived economic barrier. Not everyone’s phone plans allows them to call international. Some of them feel reluctant to dial that international number. Maybe there’s perceived language issues. But let’s say in that scenario they put a Japanese, French and Brazilian number up on their webpage — that opens up the game and allows people in those markets to call and interact to do business with them. [For] Voxbone and other OTT providers like us, the cost to add numbers like that … is very low. So a lot of over-the-top and hosted PBX providers, I think they’ve found this as something that customers like. For their businesses, it’s a way to increase the average revenue per user, because that business is very competitive based on price, so there’s a certain amount that you can realistically charge for a phone line and voicemail. But now with international numbers, suddenly that customer in L.A. is [saying;] ‘I’ll upgrade my account, and I’ll add the number in Tokyo, Rio and Paris, and they see a lot of value in doing that. That’s what’s happening today and that illustrates to an extent why [phone] numbers are still very important.

Continue this interview: Calling all OTT providers: Enterprises want your UC services!

July 22, 2014  10:37 AM

Video content management wrangles streaming video in the workplace

Katherine Finnell Katherine Finnell Profile: Katherine Finnell
Magic Quadrant, Unified Communications

Employees are streaming more video at work and it’s not just cat videos on YouTube. Enterprise video content management is the latest service to emerge in the UC market as interest in enterprise video streaming grows. What exactly is video content management? Any software, appliances or software as a service (SaaS) offering that manages or facilitates the delivery of on-demand video (one-to-any device) across the Web, according to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant.

Compared to 2012, the number of hours workers have spent streaming video at the office has risen from 7.2 to 10.8 hours per user, per month. Gartner projects that by 2016, enterprises will stream more than 16 hours of video per user, per month. Video streaming is catching on as enterprises use the technology to improve collaboration, customer service, employee training and advertisements. To prevent the increased video streaming from congesting the network, enterprises are turning to video providers for management services.

While the enterprise video content management market has grown significantly, Gartner said it is too early to forecast the market’s future or estimate market size. However, Gartner found that most enterprises are looking at SaaS or hybrid video content management services. Gartner predicts that SaaS for streaming video will continue to grow in the market, especially for organizations that want to use video to target customers or avoid unpredictable storage infrastructure costs.

In its Magic Quadrant, Gartner named two market leaders: Qumu and Kaltura.

Source: Gartner

Source: Gartner

California-based Qumu offers a secure video content management system that not only lets IT pros manage and distribute content to any platform/device, but also allows them to capture video from any source and automate streaming and downloading. Qumu was founded in 2000 and acquired by legacy video vendor Rimage in 2011. The company identifies enterprise video content management as its best potential for revenue growth.

According to Gartner, Qumu’s strengths include:

— a strong hybrid storage model that allows third parties to be storage partners;

— its partnership with audio search specialist Nexidia;

— and a modularized workflow that makes room for external processes.

However, Gartner says Qumu’s pricing model is challenging and difficult to interpret.

Kaltura, based in New York, was founded in 2006 and claims to be the only open source online video platform. It offers a modular platform where IT pros can customize and develop aspects of the service, like the management, publishing, distribution and analysis. Kaltura also offers a social video portal for employees and a video extension for Sharepoint.

Gartner noted that in addition to the company’s strong customization, other strengths include:

–a hybrid storage model that allows for third party partners;
–a highly flexible workflow engine; and
–flexible analytics that can serve just about any use case.

Gartner cautioned that transcription for search and other functions provided by Kaltura are licensed from other vendors and the administration and management interface requires more streamlining to make it easier use.

Other providers ranked on the Magic Quadrant include Panopto as the sole visionary; Polycom, Cisco, Kontiki, Ignite, KZO Innovations and Brightcove as challengers; and Sonic Foundry, VBrick Systems and Media Platform as niche players.

May 27, 2014  4:22 PM

HBO’s Silicon Valley demos five UC pain points in three minutes

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter
Connection Issues, Telepresence, Unified Communications, Video conferencing

Of the growing number of shows starring geeks (Big Bang Theory, The IT Crowd, Halt and Catch Fire) none epitomize the pain points of unified communications (UC) as profoundly as the recent TeleHuman sketch from HBO’s Silicon Valley.

HBO Silicon Valley TeleHuman

If you haven’t watched Mike Judge’s new show yet, it’s a satire of Silicon Valley’s high-tech glamour. And while it portrays IT companies at work, its sexual humor and irreverent language make it decidedly unsuitable to watch at work. With that disclaimer, this hilarious clip between characters Big head and Hooli CIO Gavin Belson perfectly illustrates five UC pain points in three minutes.

Before I hash out each pain point, for those more interested in the show than the technology, I invite you to “tune out” the tech talk as figuratively or literally as you like (a la the electric guitarist lawyer in Episode 4).

Enter UC pain point No. 1—cost—where a translucent Belson materializes in a body-size tube, dubbed the TeleHuman, in front of Big Head.

In disbelief, Big Head exclaims “Wow! Cool, am I a TeleHuman over there, too?”

Belson scoffs, “What? No, of course not.”

For years, the cost of cutting edge telepresence technology, like holographic telepresence, has prohibited all but the rich and famous from using it. Big Head, like the vast majority, is one of the honored few to witness such exclusive technology. Despite a promising start to the telepresence industry, in 2014 more businesses are leaning toward cloud-based video conferencing than deploying full-fledged holograms—though a telepresence business case still stands for certain verticals, like medicine.

When the TeleHuman breaks down and distorts Belson, we’re taken to UC pain point No. 2: reliability. Nothing is more frustrating than spending boat loads of money on a product that isn’t working right. If UC tech were truly plug-and-play, we wouldn’t have IT engineers devoted to setting up and architecting a system smooth enough to handle the high demands of voice and video.

What’s UC pain point No. 3—you ask? Ease of use (or lack thereof). Belson illustrates this when he yells at tech support to troubleshoot a failed image projection:

Belson: Can you help me please?

Tech support: OK, I think what happened was when you set it up you forgot to –

Belson: I didn’t set it up. I paid one of you people to set it up.

The fact that tech support or white-glove services are still needed for some technologies is another barrier to video conferencing adoption.

For pain point No. 4, I’d like to point out the lack of unified UC solutions. When the TeleHuman breaks down, Big Head and the team are forced to break open a laptop and call Belson back using Hooli chat, which is subsequently downgraded to a cell phone conversation. That degradation doesn’t come from network-aware technology, however. Employees still need to go to a laptop, open an application and find the person to communicate with (or resort to their cell phones to find the appropriate contact). With true unified communications, the technology can move seamlessly between one communication mode to the next. While vendors are working their way toward unifying solutions—much of today’s UC technology exists in disparate environments that beg to be connected.

Which brings us to the last UC pain point: No. 5, the network. UC technology like video is only as good as the network it runs on. Arguably my favorite line from this Silicon Valley scene is the one in which a polite Gavin Belson appears on Hooli chat to say “The TeleHuman is a great piece of technology. Unfortunately, the broadband isn’t that great out here in rural Wyoming. That presents a great business opportunity.” This scene repeats almost verbatim a conversation I had with RingCentral’s VP of operations. He harped on needing broadband in order to move dynamically between modes of communication. As far as broadband accessibility, he said; “I think the U.S. is doing a lot to be there. If you live in a major city, you’re fine; but in rural areas, we’re still lagging behind.”

While UC technology has matured a great deal over the course of decades, the industry still has a ways to go. Scenes like Silicon Valley’s UC sketch are funny because we’ve all been there—we’ve all cursed at the Godforsaken technology that’s meant to make lives easier. But IT pros can be the heroes/heroines at the end of the day. While broadband availability and UC unification may not be in your hands, the network is. For more advice, Ovum Principal Analyst Mike Sapien offers his take on how to keep your UC deployment from failing.

Photo: Gavin Belson materializes in the TeleHuman

May 13, 2014  2:40 PM

Are dual-mode communications double the trouble?

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter
multiple phones

More phones, less problems?

We’re living in a world of “dual-mode communications.” This was an argument made by Neil Schubert at the Mobile & Wireless World conference seven years ago. We have to have two of everything in order to separate our work and personal lives: a work laptop and a personal laptop; a work phone and a personal phone.

But hold the phone. If you have a mobile device for work, you’re in the minority. In a recent article on mobile UC integration limitations, Nemertes Research co-founder Irwin Lazar found that “92% of companies implement bring your own device (BYOD) policies, allowing employees to use personal smartphones to connect to corporate applications.”

Flash forward to 2014, you won’t hear anyone talk about “mobile” without “BYOD” in the same breath. But today’s “BYOD” is more like “BYOBD – bring your own business device,” according to Curtis Peterson, vice president of operations at RingCentral, in an interview on business communication.

Peterson believes this because of the restrictions that go along with connecting personal mobile devices to corporate applications, like letting employees use only certain devices purchased at certain locations. But even if a company doesn’t make an employee add an asset sticker to the back of the phone, most enterprises — in the name of security — will remotely wipe a phone if it becomes lost. While we have moved mostly away from having to carry both a work and a personal mobile phone, employees have had to become their work persona at the expense of their personal one.

“Kudos to businesses for convincing employees to go buy their equipment for them, but it becomes a challenge down the road in terms of trust and privacy,” Peterson said.

While some companies, like DropBox, are spinning off its consumer-grade products into offerings geared towards the enterprise, others, like RingCentral, allow employees to switch between work and personal resources on mobile devices. This is called dual persona or mobile device management (MDM).

“MDM remains a vital component in monitoring key device issues and assuring configuration and compliance with organizational operating policies related to this aspect of management,” wireless expert Craig Mathias said in a tip on mobility management.

While this begins to solve the problem, it’s just one part of the dual-mode communication predicament. “We might sum up here by stating that MDM is a necessary, but not a sufficient, mobility management capability today,” Mathias said.

For a while, linking mobile devices to an overall unified communication strategy may be as complex as managing the devices themselves. Though the need is there, the market may still have some catching up to do.

March 21, 2014  2:27 PM

Plantronics pins hopes on next-gen wearable technology to ‘unify UC’

Katherine Finnell Katherine Finnell Profile: Katherine Finnell

ORLANDO – Imagine using your headset not just for calls, but to adjust the temperature of your conference room or pull up documents you need for your meeting. With the advancement of next-generation wearable technology, those capabilities may not be so far off.

Discussing the future of wearable technology at Enterprise Connect 2014Plantronics CTO Joe Burton said next-generation wearable tech in the enterprise “can bend the Web to you” to perform those hypothetical capabilities.

Plantronics CTO Joe Burton wears a headset during his presentation at Enterprise Connect.

Plantronics CTO Joe Burton wears a headset during his presentation at Enterprise Connect.

Current wearable technology shows the potential for next-generation products to go beyond simply taking voice calls. Intelligent headsets available from Plantronics already have capabilities that detect how near or far users are from their computers and allow users to seamlessly switch calls between mobile devices and their headsets, Burton said.

“We can use a bunch of next-gen technology to begin restoring all of the fidelity of face-to-face interaction and apply that to many business workflows in a way that’s compelling,” he said.

Burton said Plantronics’ focus is on evolving intelligent headset technology to solve relevant business issues for people, from the headset determining which conference room is free to the ability send contextual information, such as a user’s non-verbal cues, through a call.

Asked whether consumer market wearable technology like Google Glass could be reconciled with enterprise wearable technology, Burton said there will be no consolidation of devices into “one device to rule them all.”

“What we have found is that for the most part, having multiple cooperative devices that do things well makes a ton of sense,” he said.

He said devices like Samsung’s smartwatches and FitBit wristbands aren’t quite there yet in terms of giving users what they need in wearable technology.

“I think it’s very early days [in wearable technology], and while we’re coming at it from a headset perspective, what we’re keenly focused on is… the problems people would love to solve that these new technologies can solve,” he said. “We’ve been a headset company for 54 years; there is a lot of room to run in making real-time communication better.”

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