Unified Communications Featured Article

Steve Jobs and UC


October 06, 2011

I had just finished posting this old article I wrote about the first iPhone announcement, when I heard the news of Steve Jobs passing. So, in a way this is a tribute to his vision of the mobile devices to support what end users really want to communicate and access information in a UC environment.

Steve Jobs will be sorely missed! 

Here’s what I wrote about the first release of Apple’s iPhone back in January of 2007. The recent announcement of iPhone 4S (instead of the expected iPhone 5) didn’t get rave reviews except for the new “Siri” capability which enables speech input for a variety of functional informational and messaging tasks. However, it was a step in the right direction.

The new Apple bringing more innovation to mobile communications?

Well, Apple is no longer calling itself “Apple Computer;” got your attention, didn’t it?

The big splash it made with its iPhone announcement seemed to draw everyone’s attention to what we have been waiting for in UC -- end-user demand. That demand will come from individual consumer needs (communications, entertainment, customer contacts) and individual work-related needs (desktop, roaming, traveling, mobile communications and information exchange). The common denominator between consumers and business users is the communications piece, and that’s exactly where application client software fits in with well-designed multimodal mobile devices and user interface form factors.

Industry pundits almost hysterically jumped on the Apple iPhone announcement, pointing out that most of the functionality is not really new, having been incorporated in legacy technologies like voice mail and cell phones. They also highlighted missing pieces like the lack of 3G cellular, speech interfaces for mobile users who might need it for hands-free, eyes-free situations, the fact that text input really benefits from a “hard” alphanumeric keyboard rather than a button-less screen, and that “visual voicemail” has been around for years for the few enterprise systems that moved beyond the desktop telephone TUI. However, they also grudgingly admit that the packaging was innovatively well done, the missing elements can be added in a variety of ways, and, last but not least, their device design success will be emulated by the competition.

“Different strokes for different folks!”

The bottom line for all coming mobile “UC smartphones” (a generic descriptor), is that they will come in many form factors and combination of features to support the different needs and preferences of the individual end user for business and personal contacts, including business applications, and consumer entertainment. Enterprise organizations will have to support such end user UC devices and UC in the same way they supported TDM/TUI telephony for universal phone access over the PSTN, except now it has to be multimodal communications over IP and wireless networks too.

The enterprise UC ball is in the business end user mobile smartphone court!

Ever since the IP telephony and messaging technology developers started touting “unified communications,” the enterprise market has been sitting on its hands wondering why, when and how they should start migrating to the converged world of UC. Well, the writing is on the wall, as handheld device designs become the center of attention for accommodating the complexities of converged communication applications, rather than focusing on just infrastructure cost savings to do traditional phone call and messaging functions.

In a recent column (before CES /MacWorld) I highlighted the role of mobile communications as a driver for unified communications in the enterprise. I pointed out that increased mobile accessibility would enable greater contact efficiency and therefore faster task performance by everyone involved in the business process. That would include people inside and outside of the enterprise organization, and to do that means making UC services universal, like good old PSTN telephony.

One of the key assumptions about such benefits from UC capabilities was that more and more people would be carrying personalized, multimodal, mobile devices that would be flexible enough to maximize real-time business communications in any form, not just voice. While UC is useful at the desktop with PC-based softphones and text messaging, UC will really pay off when users are “mobile” and need to switch modalities all the time.

Conclusion

The “UC industry” is making progress by consolidating infrastructure, application, and communication device needs. Until end users see everything at the interface level, they won’t understand the difference UC will make for them. Enterprise management must also see those benefits as well; otherwise, there just won’t be much movement in UC migration based on cost reductions alone.


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 Rich Steeves




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