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Revisiting Click-to-Call

If you sit through enough unified communications marketing presentations, sooner rather than later, you'll hear someone confidently assert that "UC is more than just click to call." But what if click to call is really enough for you?I just had a chance to chat with Barry Phillips, who's a general manager at Citrix, which got into the voice business when it bought a company called Net6 several years back. Barry was describing Citrix's Easy Call application, which basically can add a click-to-call function to any Citrix-enabled application. It does all the click-to-call things, like smart-tagging and letting you call by hovering over phone numbers in e-mails -- it even does this funky thing where you can mouse over a phone number in a digital phone (Barry showed me a picture of a billboard) and click to dial the number. I asked Barry how that worked and he told me it's a Citrix "secret sauce."

But in a time when everyone's getting all excited about presence, communications-enabled business applications, everything that gets crammed under this heading of unified communications -- why should you care about something as seemingly mundane as click to call?

Well, Barry argues, maybe click-to-call is all you really need at this stage. Training a whole workforce full of users on a full-blown UC client like Microsoft Communicator or any of the packages offered by the PBX guys might be more of an undertaking than you'd think at first. As Barry notes, not that many people have used communications clients before, so skills may not be as transferable as they are between various office applications.

And that's important when you get to the "Who cares?" question. Why do you even need click-to-call? It's definitely not to save the person time in picking up and dialing their telephone; that is trivial. It has more to do with what that telephone connects to.

I've heard from several enterprises that they're encouraging or even requiring employees who travel internationally to deploy and use softphones on their laptops, to save the still-exorbitant cost of international cellular roaming. Click-to-call is a way to capture that same savings without the need to install, boot up, and switch to a softphone application every time you make a call. It's a more painless way to actually get these workers to take the steps to save the money.

The Citrix solution obviously only is meant for enterprises that use Citrix for their business applications, but the message really could apply to any enterprise deployment: Keep working on the heavier UC clients, keep developing the presence-centric architectures of the future, but also look for ways that enterprise IT managers can make cheaper communications easy for end users to actually use.