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Unified Communications in 2013

Where will UC take us in 2013? Here are insights from several analysts who forecast deeper integration of UC and applications, the end of voice as a separate market, and more.

I recently participated in a podcast hosted by Jim Burton with a number of my colleagues at UCStrategies.com on analysts' expectations for UC in the coming year. I'll share what they had on their minds as we head into the new year.

Marty Parker of UniComm Consulting picked up on a theme I've written about here: the ability to integrate UC capabilities into other applications. As Marty put it, "The battle is going to be won by those people who can package what they have as applications. Whether it's applets on a mobile device, apps on the desktop, communication built into business applications and workflows, [or] communications built even into social networks. We're going to see, I believe, that UC will no longer be deployed as a pure UC client; UC will be deployed as part of some application or workflow."

Marty's partner at UniComm Consulting, Don Van Doren, followed up on Marty's application integration thrust and predicted an end to voice as a separate market. Don pointed to three factors driving this development. First is cell phones siphoning off huge volumes of formerly PBX-based traffic. Second is that peer-to-peer communication volumes are ramping up, such as via Microsoft integrating Skype into business applications or Twilio embedding communications in other applications and devices. Third is the potential of WebRTC, which can embed communication capabilities into any browser.

A major proponent of WebRTC, Phil Edholm of PKE Consulting picked up on the potential for this technology to serve as "a separate communication channel from the traditional telephone." He went on to say, "I think we're going to begin to see a lot of the communication deployment moving out of the traditional communication platform that's telephone number-oriented and dialing-oriented into these [WebRTC-enabled] systems. That's going to be a big trend in 2013".

Blair Pleasant of CommFusion predicted a different tack on BYOD. Picking up on an idea proposed by IP PBX/UC vendor ShoreTel, Blair talked about CYOD (choose your own device), where IT departments let workers choose from several approved devices. She sees this as "a sort of a happy medium between 'just bring anything,' and 'just use what the organization provides.'" Blair expects more enterprises to be offering an expanded range of devices that the workers can use instead of full-blown BYOD.

Dave Michels of Verge1 and chief blogger at TalkingPointz continued on the BYOD theme and predicted "a normalization of BYOD." Dave sees "BYOD" as a very inconsistent term because some organizations use it to mean any device, any network, while other organizations that believe it's any device on a specific list. Other organizations that say it's any device on the list, but the company retains the phone number should the employee leave. Dave believes that in 2013 BYOD will come to mean any device, any network, and that the security issues will get resolved through virtualization.

Kevin Kieller of enableUC hit on another of the topics I've discussed: federation and UC interoperability. He joked that his prediction that 2012 would be "the year of federation" was perhaps a year early. He pointed out that we have two federated platforms, the PSTN (including cellular networks) and email. Kevin sees federation as enhancing the ability to communicate with multiple modes and choose the mode that's best for that user at that time. "I think we will see more UC systems, as opposed to just voice systems that sometimes never grow up to be a UC system," he said.

All in all it was a lively discussion, and you can either listen to it or, as I typically do, read the transcript. Maybe next December we'll take a look back and see how close the predictions came to reality.

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