Unified Communications Featured Article

Will iPads, Tablets Replace Enterprise Laptops and Desktop Softphones for UC?


December 20, 2010

In the early days of UC, “softphones” (screen-based PC telephony), offered UC flexibility where traditional desktop “hardphones” were lacking. It is still a viable alternative for wired, location-based telephony. However, mobile smartphones are making a huge dent in the consumer and business user markets for multimodal UC applications. That is, until the larger screen size of tablets came into the picture. Now, a user has a choice of two kinds of mobile devices, one convenient for the hand and one portable enough to carry along, but with a larger screen interface for better visual information access.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece on the subject of mobility and what the user experience would be like if the user was standing up or sitting down. Obviously, that experience will vary with the size of the device, the screen, and its impact on on the user interface. When worse comes to worse, and no screen can be looked at (e.g., driving a car), then speech interfaces come into play, and that is one good reason that mobility needs multimodal UC flexibility.

So, with UC convergence, business applications need to be endpoint device independent, not only in terms of screen-based interfaces vs. speech interfaces, but also based on the size of the screens for handheld devices, portable tablets and iPads, and wired desktop PCs. The choice will be based upon who the users are and what they need to do their jobs, whether premise-based or mobile. It is becoming intuitively obvious that most business users will want to use a single, personalized smartphone when mobile for both their business and personal contacts with “dual persona” access management and services (two addresses). In addition, they can also use a desktop device on a transient basis, using the current network address of their choice.

All this represents a significant shift in old telephony networks, but not to Internet communications, which have always been “virtual.”  So, that’s what is shaking up the enterprise communications world while the migration shift slowly takes place. In the meantime, will multimodal PC “softphones” be replaced more easily by portable/mobile iPads and tablets when a bigger screen is needed for data output? How will the enterprise support such flexible mobile service with CEBP-based applications? Will the choice of mobile tablet become like the smartphones, that of the individual end users’ because of its support for personalized UC?

Variance in device screen sizes and form factors brings with it the problems of standards, impact on operating systems, as well as the user applications themselves. The success of Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) will be very dependent on resolving these issues, because outbound notifications and information delivery to individual end users will be based on greater (process-to-person) accessibility through user mobility.

Enterprise CIOs are already starting to look at their responsibilities for information access and delivery from both a mobility perspective, as well as from responsibilities to non- enterprise employees (business partners, customers). They all want multimodal information access, as well as multimodal, federated, contextual communication contact with appropriate people within and outside of their organization. Device independence is quickly becoming key to such flexibility and can’t be restricted to what the enterprise supplies but what it can support. 

For a roundup of other major UC developments in 2010 check out the recent podcast of UC Strategies experts, particularly that on the coming role of UC tablets.

For more information, contact the author at (310) 395-2360 or at artr@ix.netcom.com


Art Rosenberg, a veteran of the computer and communications industry, contributes his column, The Unified-View to unified communications. To read more of Art’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf




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