Unified Communications Featured Article

Personalized UC - Mobility vs. Portability

October 24, 2011

While telephony struggles to find its new role in UC-based business communications, the real driver for UC is going to come from individual end users and the endpoint communication devices they will carry with them for both business and personal/social contacts. With the rapid adoption of wireless smartphones and tablets, the business communications market is faced with the challenge of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) for all types of end users who will interact with an organization.

Wired desktop and residence phones stuck end users with the “telephone” form factor designed for conversational speech input and output and limited non-voice keypad inputs for dialing and control functions, better known as the Telephone User Interface (TUI).

With smartphones that provide a screen-based capability for output as well as full alphanumeric text inputs, end users can now choose a portable endpoint device that accommodates fast, flexible, on-demand multimodal contacts with both people and informational applications like a desktop computer, “anywhere, anytime, anyway.”

Steve Jobs, an acknowledged visionary for end user needs the industry has ever had, took the lead with Apple’s first smartphone announcement back in January 2007. While it didn’t do everything that a multimodal end user would want, particularly with speech input, it was a start towards personalized, mobile UC. Apple’s latest release of the iPhone 4S finally brought in a missing user speech input interface (Siri) for a variety of automated mobile applications. So, the basic vision of UC, which allows an end user to dynamically initiate and respond to contacts in any interface medium and modality they choose or require, can now be supported by their personalized devices.

Smartphones vs. Tablets

Smartphones and tablets are both being gobbled up by consumers and the question has been raised as to which device will be carried most by the end users. My colleague at UC strategies, Dave Michels, wrote a thoughtful piece on the subject on the No Jitter website. Inasmuch as personalized usage will include all forms of information from documents to pictures to video, the size of the screen will affect the end user’s choice of device type.

My view is end users may well carry both types of devices when they are on the go. Sometimes they need something they can work with one hand while walking around and fits into any pocket, i.e., a smartphone, other times they will need the larger screen when they can also sit down and can look at the screen. In the first case, speech input recognition becomes a key component for the user interface (as reflected by Apple’s Siri addition to its iPhone 4S). When the end user knows they want everything a larger screen will support AND they have a convenient way to carry a larger tablet, e.g., in a purse or other type of shoulder bag, they will take the larger device with them.

When “push comes to shove,” the basic choice for end users is to be able to communicate with other people and with (mobile) business applications. The smartphone size and capabilities will accommodate that nicely. For mobile applications that really require larger screens, the portable tablet will start replacing laptops. But the choice will now be in the individual end user’s ballpark and wireless carriers trying to figure out how monetized everything subscribers will want and to keep control of the traffic demands that mobile apps will be bringing.  

So, mobility will trump portability for basic consumer UC applications, but business users may well look to both kinds of wireless devices, just as they do with their wired desktops.

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 Jennifer Russell

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