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This week's podcast topic is New Directions in Mobility. Where will the intelligence reside in next-generation mobile technologies, and what kind of an impact is that going to have on mobile UC? Michael Finneran moderates the podcast, and is joined by UCStrategies Experts Marty Parker, Paul Robinson, Steve Leaden, Don Van Doren, Phil Edholm, Dave Michels, Art Rosenberg, and Kevin Kieller.
Michael Finneran: Well, good morning, good afternoon, or good evening. This is Michael Finneran and I’m here with a group of the UCStrategies experts. Our topic today will be New Directions in Mobility. This is a question that had come up during one of our open calls last week. The crux of it is, where will the intelligence reside in the next generation mobile technologies? And most importantly from our perspective is, what kind of impact is that going to have on mobile UC?
Now the mobile app business was really born in 2007 back with the iPhone. The modern generation, well, Marty Parker looks at this in a little more historical perspective; we will hear from him in a moment. And there are lots of different ways to build these. The basic question is, do we keep the data and processing local, or do we leave it in the network? A lot of the lightweight apps we have today really are what I call “button pushers.” It is really a web-based application with a mobile-appropriate interface. Of course, the advantage of that is it is much easier to build, takes up very little memory on the device, and all the information you are drawing from the cloud is up to date. Of course, the con side is (if you have) no network, you are out of business.
But now we are seeing a new set of development tools, particularly those based in HTML5, which allow us to embed processing capabilities in that web-based application, including functions like WebRTC that Phil Edholm has talked about here in the past. But our real interest is, what is this going to mean for mobile UC? To this point, for my money, mobile UC has been a complete failure. Every one of the UC vendors has a mobile application and the only place you’re going to see them is Enterprise Connect – and only on the stage, not on the show floor. But the trouble has been they really can’t build something that integrates fully with the phone. So you have a separate dialer, a separate set of procedures, and business users just don’t put up with having one way of making personal calls and a completely different way of making business calls. But now with these new tools, are we going to see cloud-based browser accessed unified communications with embedded capabilities? And will this be part of a move out of Outlook as our launch pad for unified communications into some collaborative social space? Of course, the big question in that is will the social space be provided by Microsoft, Cisco, and Avaya, or will it be provided by Facebook and Google?
Now a number of the experts have their own views on this. First I’d like to pass it off to Marty Parker, who does see the historical perspective of this and sees a new model coming about. Marty, what are your thoughts?
Marty Parker: Yeah, Michael, thanks for giving me the historian badge today. The thing I would say is, if you do look historically, you will say that mobile applications are a raging success. Practically the moment that enough processing power was on the mobile device and even a decent amount of digital bandwidth was available, email took off. You know, the early success of Blackberry, we can say everything we want to say about RIM today, but in 1999 until 2006, they were the rage. And they brought email contacts and calendar to your mobile device in a way that they were synchronized. Of course, we have seen that with laptops synchronized in a Lotus Notes world before. We see it with email synchronization even today so that I have my personal information accessible to me even when I am out of range of the network, even when I am on an airplane and not buying the WiFi service. So I think email/contacts/calendar were a great initial one.
The next thing we saw in terms of mobile applications for business was the mobilization of things like Salesforce.com and SAP and Microsoft Dynamics and so forth. SAP is a classic example because it is a mobile client to a heavy backend database model. You could argue that is the part of the cloud, but it was basically accessing business information on the fly and others followed them – Siebel before Oracle bought them, so Oracle’s in this business now, too. From a consumer perspective, eBooks are another example and I think they are just the beginning. But guess what? When you buy a book with your Kindle, it’s on your Kindle – stored on your Kindle, read on your Kindle totally offline. You only need to be synchronizing when you buy a new book. Other personal business information is also going to be part of this process and people will be especially concerned about having information on their private device when it’s personal – private personal or private business information.
And this leads to my view that the future here is going to be a barbell type of model. That is, some processing and some storage on the personal mobile device and some processing and some storage up in the cloud. And I think that we should be looking ahead, not behind. Even though I’m the historian, I’ll become the forecaster and say that the mobile devices are going to become a) more powerful and b) much more readable. I think that the screen size of the mobile phone is going to be usurped pretty quickly either by increasing use of tablets, or by the use of some kind of eyeglass type of product that lets you see what you want to see at a scale that’s usable, which means that then from a unified communications perspective – let’s put this in a unified communications perspective – people will be able to do work on their mobile device.
Now from a UC perspective, you mentioned presence. I agree with that. I’ve already mentioned contacts, calendar, email, and meetings. But that leads to collaborative work and that’s the theme I see happening – Microsoft’s moves with Office 365, Google’s moves with GoogleDocs. These are very impressive pieces of work. Cisco’s work blending WebEx and Quad are going to be very impressive pieces of work in terms of my being able to pull information that I want to work on and edit and so forth as part of a team into my mobile space, work on it quickly and with high speed, not waiting… I mean, I can type faster than GoogleDocs can update the document when I’m working in the cloud. But when I work on my personal device, Office on my tablet, hey, I’m going to be able to work at my speed and then synchronize when I’m ready. So I think we’ll see this barbell approach being the future with the evolution of the mobile devices in such a way that unified communications becomes part of your work, not a separate application.
And that’s my punch line to this conversation, Michael. You may be right that unified communications apps as a control panel in place of a telephone are never going to succeed. But if you embed communications into the applications you will use on your mobile device, they will succeed like crazy. People were calling from their email messages by clicking on a phone number 15 years ago. So let’s not say that there’s no UC in a mobile device.
Michael Finneran: Good points, Marty. And I agree with you wholeheartedly. The interesting things we see in the mobile space now are coming from the independent software vendors – the guys like Salesforce and Oracle – and from the mobile devices themselves. But I know Paul Robinson, you had another angle on this. You have been looking into some of the new mobile customer service apps that are coming out.
Paul Robinson: Yeah, you’re absolutely right, Michael. Placement of mobile intelligence, I’ve seen, is contingent on one key question. How do I maintain a mobile app and keep it updated on user’s devices? And two companies – Interactive Intelligence with their Interaction Mobilizer, and Avaya with their Customer Connections Mobile – have both come out and said that rather than providing an appropriate environment for developing mobile apps, what they are really doing is putting together a platform that will maintain and keep all the material that’s necessary for the application. So the application that’s essentially downloaded, say, from the app store is really very simple, never needs updating. Everything is available in the contact center itself. And that’s the way these two companies plan on going forward.
Michael Finneran: Interesting, yeah. I’ve had a look at the Interactive Mobilizer and I thought it was a dynamite idea. Essentially, for those who haven’t seen it, you can basically use a tool kit that Interactive provides, build your own mobile application using scripting language. And if one of your customers (who) has downloaded this application runs into trouble, it automatically connects with the Interactive Intelligence contact center software, places a request, and the contact center then sends you an appointment and calls you. You can also change the appointment time. But the coolest thing is they also were smart enough to pick up on the analytics. When this thing – the mobile client – updates to Interactive, it also sends the entire history of your mobile applications so the contact center agent will know exactly what you were looking at, what you were doing, and where you got into trouble before you made the contact.
So a nifty set of capabilities there, Paul, and I’m glad you brought them in. Now Steve Leaden, you have some observations on this as well.
Steve Leaden: Absolutely, Mike. It’s an interesting period, I think, that we’re all going through here in the mobile space. Our colleagues over at the World Bank recently came up with a study and they’re showing that the number of mobile devices will actually exceed the number of people worldwide very shortly. Not an unusual kind of statement but yet very, very significant in terms of how it’s going to play into mobility. So it obviously shows the indication that mobility is slowly taking over the world, slowly taking over the number of endpoint devices – landline versus mobile, etc. – and therefore, the need for a fully functioning mobile device will far exceed that of a landline device in the years to come.
What we have seen in our space in the enterprise market as consultants, and working with the various vendor communities, we have seen one-number dialing to multiple devices become pretty regular now and that’s a form of UC. We’ve seen caller ID blocking, so again, the user calls from a mobile device but it really shows up as the landline so therefore, like in the healthcare space, physicians don’t have to be bothered with patients finding out what their personal or even corporate cell phone number is, as an example. We have seen unified messaging being used to the mobile device. And very specific to manufacturers, we’ve seen IM chat functions, presence in the apps, and even video from the devices.
But I think to some of your talking points earlier, Michael, from all of the manufacturers really from Cisco to Avaya to Siemens to ShoreTel, Interactive Intelligence, Mitel, Alcatel-Lucent and others, the biggest complaint is really too many buttons to push, not seeing what’s with the existing mobile apps. And the new interface, even if we’re replacing the old, it’s not as easy as the original interface that came with it.
So I think there’s some time to go. And yet, there are obviously other dynamics going on – security issues in the cloud that Marty alluded to a little bit ago, BYOD issues. Again, who’s going to be culpable in the world of iPhones and iCloud and all the things that go with, “well gosh, you know, I recorded something...now it’s sitting in the iCloud; is that public domain? Is that discoverable?” All of the issues that go with that. And specific to the cloud, what is owned and what is not owned in terms of potentially being reused or security breached over time and therefore, potentially at risk to the enterprise? So there are obviously a lot of elements going on.
And lastly, Michael, fixed mobile convergence is now finally taking off after you and I have talked about it for years now. It is way beyond the hype stage and now being included. So again, the mobile device is being now even present on the premise.
So a lot of variables, a lot of things going on and really, we’ll see if the cloud wins out or not. I don’t know if you saw this, but it’s been on the news where literally, for the Barnes & Noble Nook and for the Kindle, everything that you do is now being tracked. Every highlight that you make, every note that you make is now being stored in the cloud. And what they’re saying is at the moment, both Barnes & Noble and Amazon are saying right now those statistics are just being managed just to see what the trends are, not specific to people. But again, at what point is the consumer and the business stopped being tracked, if you will?
Marty Parker: You can turn that off as an individual.
Steve Leaden: That’s true. So yeah, a lot to think about. Thank you, Marty. Thanks, Mike. Back to you.
Michael Finneran: Thanks, Steve. Yes, so your observations on mobile UC jives exactly with what I’ve seen. And the bottom line is in mobility, you have to deliver a good experience. People won't put up with junk so it’s a tough market to play in. Don Van Doren, you had some thoughts about the impact of Nuance in this.
Don Van Doren: Thanks very much, Michael. Marty mentioned, of course, some of the key challenges that we’ve seen in mobile. He mentioned specifically some of the output issues. Another one of the key challenges, obviously, is input. How do you get information in? As we carry around our mobile devices, the keyboards become less than functional in many cases and so there’s really an opportunity, I think, for some kind of speech recognition capabilities coming in. Siri came out, of course, and that’s been all the rage. Really, it’s positioned sort of as what I call a “personal assistant” to the users carrying around that Apple device.
But what I find interesting is Nuance’s recent announcement of Nina, which includes both speech recognition and national language capabilities. And what I think is really important – especially for some of our unified communications applications – is that you can integrate speech capabilities directly with the graphical user interface that’s on the mobile device. So basically what this allows you to do is use speech where it’s appropriate or use the displays that are on your mobile device or your tablet and click on those or speak the thing you want to do – either way. And the ability for that to go back and forth I think opens up some really interesting opportunities not only for the kind of collaborative interactions that we’ve been talking about in UCStrategies for a long time, but also for customer experience situations. So I’m envisioning that there are some very interesting opportunities for companies to use these devices in that way.
The other thing I’ll point out is that Nina from Nuance is going to be available not only as an application that companies can run on their own servers, but also as a network-based service where you can actually start up paying on a per-user basis. That’s going to open up, I think, a lot of the issues about cloud opportunities and how do companies really provide a new range of services using some of these kinds of cloud capabilities.
So there’s a lot coming here that I think is going to be really fascinating as we continue to watch this develop. Back to you, Michael.
Michael Finneran: Thank you, Don. Yeah, actually, Siri became a security issue. IBM and their BYOD initiative have now banned Siri given the fact that the processing that recognizes the speech is actually done in the cloud. But Siri is a sore point with me, anyway. I’m too easygoing and Siri is now starting to give me orders.
But Phil Edholm, I think it was you who actually started this theme in our open conversation last week. How do you see this coming down?
Phil Edholm: Well actually, I think it’s very interesting. If you kind of take a step back and think about what we talked about with the barbell, if you go back many years ago, the barbell was essentially very narrow, the bar of the barbell. One end was big – mainframes and mini computers – and the other end was very small – it was the terminal. Now the advent of the microprocessor, the advent of the PC basically changed that balance where for many users for a long time, everything turned around. The end of the barbell where they were at became the big end of the barbell. The other end became the small, very insignificant end. And what was in between was still thin. We’re now in a very interesting world in that what’s really happened is the thing in between has become thick. The bandwidth we can get from networks and the time we can get that bandwidth is actually changing the whole characterization of how you do computing.
And I think what’s really interesting is if you think about this conversation, what you realize is that there’s a huge difference in this new world between data entry or input, and content utilization. So if I’m inputting content, if I’m manipulating information in a relatively complex way; i.e., in a PowerPoint and an Excel document, having the capability of having local processing to do that becomes very important.
On the other hand, if I am a content consumer and the application I’m running is purely content consumption, the necessity of having local applications is dramatically reduced, if not eliminated. In fact, what’s really interesting is if you look on your iPhone or your Android device, look at the applications and understand how many of those, in fact, are really just a user interface for data coming from somewhere else. Those are the applications where they’re really just consumers of data versus manipulators. Games are obviously manipulators, our traditional business productivity apps are manipulators, if you’re a content creator.
So I think what’s really interesting is if you extrapolate that forward and say that that probably drives how applications actually get implemented on these devices, then what’s interesting is devices actually tend to be defined by the device itself to whether it’s a creation device or a consumption device or both. I mean, I will make the argument that a small handheld device like an iPhone or an Android phone that has a four-inch screen really is about predominantly content consumption. It really is not good, it is not an effective environment, because of its size, for manipulation of content, manipulation of information. You could type on it, you can input characters. That’s fairly simple. So I think what you’ll see there is those applications will tend to lean more towards the consumption side.
On the other side, a larger device – a tabloid or a PC – is where you’ll do content creation and therefore, there’ll be more applications actually running on that device.
The other thing I think that’s really important to think about is, what is the role of the device in the cache? If you stop and think about email for a second, if I’m doing email on the airplane, I’m running a fairly small application against the cache of email data that was downloaded at some point in the past. If I don’t have network connectivity, I can’t get the next email. I can only work on things that happened in the past. If we start thinking about that as the model, all of a sudden you begin to realize that a device that has a cache and uses, for example, HTML5... and it’s going to apply HTML5 against the cache and things that it had in the past, enables you to redo and reuse things that you had in the past just like you do with email today. So all the sudden, it begins to change the way that device operates. So beginning to think about devices as being intelligence interfaces with caches that store a significant percentage of what you’ve done; i.e., a 64-gig cache represents a month or two’s worth of information, it begins to really cause us to think differently about how those devices work.
Now what’s interesting is we take all that thought process and think about it relative to the device in a collaborative communication environment, you begin to realize some very interesting things. The first thing is that a device in a collaborative communication environment by definition must be on the network in order to communicate and collaborate. I mean, if you’re basically not on the network, it’s the sound of one hand clapping, there’s no one to talk to, there’s no one to interact with, there’s no one to collaborate with because you don’t have network connectively. So therefore, all the sudden, you’re going to realize that the applications that are going to be driven in the collaboration space can assume that there’s network connectivity at the time they operate. And then beginning to realize that to a significant percentage, those applications are actually content consumption applications for most of the users enables us to think that over time, those applications may become – if we think about that barbell again – ones where the application itself is up in the cloud, if you want to call it that up in the network – that’s where the bigger part of the intelligence is and the smaller part is on the device. And I think what’s really interesting is that the technology to drive that – in HTML5 and WebRTC or whatever comes out of that now that Microsoft has essentially announced a competitive alternative to WebRTC – whatever comes in those two technologies – HTML5 and a real time media agent in the browser – actually is going to enable us to define a new generation of collaborative experiences that again, are dependent upon the network and can implement because the network’s there, you now can have both content creation and content consumption along with collaboration and communication.
So I think it really is becoming to be a very interesting time. And the fact that you can do that now in a way that is standardized and open across a wide variety of devices takes away a lot of the barriers to mobile deployment that the vendors had, which is how do you deal with the 57 different versions of Android? How do you deal with the different versions of Blackberry? Obviously, you have iPhones, you have iPads. But this new technology will allow vendors and the purveyors of the applications that users want to actually provide them across a broad range of devices.
So I think it’s really an exciting time and it’s really being enabled by communication being there all the time and these new technologies on the network. Anyway, thank you.
Michael Finneran: Thanks, Phil. I’m with you a hundred percent on that and also with the network. The fact that we’re not going to be dealing with much higher transmission rates through 4G just makes all of this that much more functional. But I see Dave Michels also wants to weigh in on this. Dave, what are your thoughts?
Dave Michels: Thanks, Michael. You might find this surprising, but I think everything looks just great. I find that the current concept of mobility is dramatically changing my life for the better. I think it’s broader than Smartphones and I think that might be part of the frustration from your lens. But I sit here in my home office and I get too hot because I don’t have air conditioning and so I pick up my notebook, which I don’t use normally – my little travel notebook I call it – and I go downstairs where it’s cooler and I work there. I don’t have to move files because I have things stored where I can reach them in more than one place. I’m pretty much device agnostic at this point. I’ve got a great Smartphone, I’ve got the latest Nexus Samsung phone from Google with the Jellybean on it. It’s got features like voice dictation that doesn’t even require a network connection and I have used that, and I think it’s amazing that they were able to put that speech recognition into the phone itself. I’m able to do GoogleDocs, which I use pretty heavily, offline now. I can actually work on a plane, which I couldn’t do before. So offline access to things like voice recognition and editing a cloud doc is now supported. My Kindle doesn’t actually have… I prefer to use the Kindle screen than the tablets. It doesn’t have the cellular connection, but I tether it through my phone and I bought a book in the airport the other day before I got on the plane.
It’s just amazing to me how mobile and portable things really are. I do some video blogging and my office isn’t always exactly the image I want to project...of an organized person. So I use the virtual green screen technology from a company called Nuvixia so I have a background, or sometimes I use my PowerPoint has a background. I do that with a Microsoft Connect camera.
The reason I’m bringing that up is because mobility’s not invading my space the way it used to. I find that so many portals that I use now are web based. I can access them from any device – tablet, phone, anyone’s computer. It’s just amazing to me how far we have really come with mobility. I used to carry my notebook computer everywhere because carrying files was too much trouble and using another computer was impossible. So I used to have to carry it everywhere. Now I just freely go from device-to-device and I work from room-to-room and plane-to-plane.
I think the biggest issue… obviously, there’s still some maturity to come. Keyboards and screens are getting better. I think Microsoft has introduced some interesting keyboards for their new Surface. I think this competition’s going to be good for the whole industry. I think the biggest issue is going to be things like terms in service agreements – who owns the content and rights and privacy issues – that’s still very, very complex and murky. And even Woz now came out against all these issues with cloud-based data content.
But I’m just amazed. You know, we’ve got a family event coming up and we’re using a site called Trellow for multiuser collaboration to organize all the tasks. It’s just amazing to me how this technology has impacted my life for the better. I can’t believe I used to actually go to places to do a certain task instead of doing them where I wanted to do and when I wanted to do them. So I think this is just great. Thanks.
Michael Finneran: Thank you, Dave. I think it’s pretty good, too. We really have, with mobility, changed people’s expectations of what’s possible and done it in an amazingly short amount of time. I know Art Rosenberg, you had ideas on this, as well.
Art Rosenberg: I wanted to emphasize a little bit of what Phil was bringing up. And that is, that if you think about it, every consumer – wherever they work and whoever they work for – bottom line, they’re all consumers. Everyone is a consumer. And if you think about it, a consumer does business with a number of organizations. They need the flexibility of using applications for whether it’s work or for as a customer or anything in between. It’s all coming together to have that flexibility and this is where what I call the UC Contact Center – you can call it something else – but the contact center is not just telephony and voice. It’s all the forms of contact and especially when it gets to as a consumer doing business with a number of companies, it’s going to be the self-service applications, which will not be on their devices. So that’s my parting comment.
Michael Finneran: Thanks very much, Art. And last, Kevin Kieller, who was planning at the beginning to either agree or disagree with us. So Kevin, which side do you come down on?
Kevin Kieller: Well, thank you, Michael. So this is Kevin Kieller and am just to give a quick recap.
So as I run down my UCStrategies colleagues, I would say that I disagree with Michael, especially Michael, when you say the mobile you see is a complete failure. That is not how I see it.
Marty, I definitely agree with you and certainly think that the barbell model for the future where we have both processing power on the mobile device and in the cloud is where we are going.
Paul, I am going to disagree with you, not so much on any specific point, but just simply because I didn’t see any concrete point to agree with.
Steve, I am going to disagree with you.
Don, I am going to call it a draw. I liked some of your points, but I would want to point out that as interesting as the Nokia Nina SDK is, the Windows Phone 8 SDK already includes speech recognition and I would suggest that Microsoft has a much better chance of mobilizing its millions of developers behind the Windows Phone 8 SDK for speech recognition than does the more niche play from Nokia.
Phil, once again, I am going to agree with you based on your concept which I am strongly in favor of in terms of the Barbell processing power, both on the mobile and the cloud. Although then I am, Phil, I am also going to disagree with you where you see that mobile is predominantly for contact consumption. I would like to point out that things like mobile photos, taking pictures, taking videos, email, instant messaging, and then—I know that it is old and tried-and-true and perhaps teenagers are not using it as much, but certainly voice—I see as contact creation on the mobile. So, Phil, I guess at once I agree and I disagree.
Dave, as much as I enjoying disagreeing and debating with you, I absolutely need to agree with you today. The current situation with regard to mobile devices and what they allow us to do, I wholeheartedly agree with Dave. It’s fantastic.
Art, I am going to declare it a draw. Yes, every person is a consumer in the UC Contact Center and you need to support all forms of contact. But really, Michael said at the beginning said the primary question is, where will intelligence reside in the new world of mobility?
So if I put my developer’s hat on and that is what I love to do, where I started, mobile devices and the local processing power that they provide, combined with the opportunity to process things in the cloud really provide the best of both worlds. That is what both Marty and Phil referred to as the barbell model, and then Phil went on to explain that it is a barbell model that the handle between the local barbell and the cloud barbell is now getting thicker as networks are improving.
This provides tremendous opportunity and this provides tremendous excitement. And really where we are seeing breakthrough applications are where they realize and they do what is best done locally, that could be some real-time image processing, and then what’s best done in the cloud. And that could be things like accessing large databases, especially if it involves databases across multiple users, some speech recognition tasks where you are connected to a network and we can rely on that bigger, broader database in the cloud.
So as a developer, the times have never been more exciting. I expect to see tremendous new applications and tremendous creativity as we have both the processing power on our mobile devices that dwarf even the complete desktop PC power from a few years ago. And then combining that with just the ability to access over these increasingly robust and increasing bandwidth and speed networks the vast data that lies in the cloud. It is just incredibly exciting times. And so back to you, Michael.
Michael Finneran: Well, thank you very much, Kevin. Now, this has been quite a session here. Certainly, the UCStrategies experts are into their mobility – Dave most particularly. But as I mentioned, mobile is really reshaping people’s expectations and the pendulum keeps swinging. Of course, the goal for both UC vendors and the systems integrators will be 1), to recognize which way these trends are taking us, then of course, 2) be there when the customers arrive. But I think they’re going to be arriving mobile and I think they’re going to be arriving in more social and collaborative spaces, as many of the experts have pointed out.
So thank you all for joining us today and we’ll see you next week.
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