Listening to enterprise-FMC vendors pitch their wares, IT might be forgiven for thinking these systems are tuned up and ready to deliver a fast ride to mobility city. But the reality is, we found a wide range of approaches and a multiplicity of handset, PBX and WLAN infrastructure partnerships. Fixed/mobile convergence is an important technology that's still being shaped by the challenges of multinational and large-scale customer deployments—and the high pressure that wireless carriers and PBX vendors will inevitably exert.
Right now there's little market clarity but a whole lot of pent-up demand. That usually spells a scramble by big players to stake out their roadmaps, and indeed, they're jostling for position. Cisco purchased Orative Corp. and has announced a partnership with Nokia. Avaya picked up Traverse Networks, and Research In Motion bought Ascendent Systems. PBX vendors are touting an enterprise-centric FMC approach, while carriers, wary of losing traffic to voice-over-Wi-Fi, have their own plans.
Out of the gate, Avaya has the best e-FMC story: It has a strong market share in enterprise PBXes, both TDM, IP and hybrid; owns its FMC system rather than licensing from someone like FirstHand; has provided mobile extensions for many years and so has a level of maturity rivals can only envy; and presents a defined a roadmap. To top it off, Avaya hasn't precluded itself from partnerships with other third-party FMC players, so Avaya customers who are not satisfied with others can easily switch.
FirstHand holds a strong second place, positioning itself as the premier FMC-enabler for PBX vendors thanks to its mature feature set and flexibility. We believe enterprise and PBX-centric FMC systems will dominate, simply because they put enterprise IT groups in the driver's seat. If PBX vendors should decide to go their own route, FirstHand risks losing OEM customers, but it could be gobbled up by one of its partners, too.