Phil Edholm, VP for strategy and innovation at Avaya, was a bit more bleak, saying that unified communications today is a like two cans and a string. He sees the value of UC developing in 3-5 years, with services providing advanced services like conference moderation, intelligent device detection, and better, easier collaboration between end-users. Essentially adding services and options that make on-line collaboration as easy as picking up a phone.
UC is very much in its infancy, where a vendor or an integrator like Cisco, HP, IBM or Microsoft has to certify different vendor products like VoIP phones, video servers and displays, and UC software to ensure that the products can interoperate together and figure out their own best practices for deploying the systems live.
It's a time-consuming task for them and ultimately limits the scope of a UC system to a single-vendor, single-customer solution. In a later meeting with Avaya, Phil Edholm said they spend tens of lots of money (I forget how much. Thousands? Millions?) on interoperability testing. UC systems aren't even as open as the POTS because you can't tie multiple vendor UC solutions together or even do something as basic as make a call from one vendor UC product to another vendors UC product. This fact sparked some elbow throwing between the panelists, in NoJitter Editor Eric Krapf's words, over why Microsoft OCS client didn't work with any other vendor's products.
The Wi-Fi Alliance was called out as the example of a third part certification body that works and was largely responsible for the success of Wi-Fi in general. Prior to Wi-Fi Alliance certification of 802.11 access points and NICs, the chances of connecting wireless components together were pretty low.