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Does UC Have a Product Life Cycle? If So, Where is UC in That Life Cycle?

February 06, 2012

Thierry Breton, Atos CEO, has said his company would ban email for internal communications within the next year and a half.

The plan is to replace email with an enterprise social networking platform, which would handle all communications among Atos' 70,000 employees worldwide.

Melanie Turek thinks the Atos’ strategy is unwise. But it is hard to ignore the growing amount of talk one hears about “adding social elements to unified communications.” Nor is it hard to miss the shift of supplier language from “unified communications” to “collaboration.”

The issue is “why” this might be so. Perhaps something is different. It might be fair to note that, in the past, when suppliers change nomenclature, it generally is for the purpose of reinvigorating sales of some product that either is failing to catch fire, or has slowed, or to try and emphasize some element of a product that a particular supplier believes is favorable.

That is why some might say Cisco talks about “collaboration” rather than “unified communications,” for example, emphasizing the visual communications angle. But, given recent experience in the broader communications business, one possible explanation for the apparently growing attention to social communications as a replacement for traditional UC, or at least the blending of social and UC, is that product life cycles are at work.

This will not be a welcome line of argument in all quarters. Still, one has to note that several mainstay products in the global telecom business have shown they are products with life cycles.

Long distance, landline voice and dial-up Internet access are the best examples. In developed markets, mobile voice, mobile messaging and perhaps subscription video are products that appear to be approaching a product cycle peak.

For Verizon, digital subscriber line is a product that has passed its peak. Keep in mind that not all products late in their life cycles go unused. They simply sell less, and get used less. In other cases, products are used, but the revenue contribution, for suppliers, dips.

In the computing devices, one might note similar changes in demand for desktop PCs, Apple devices compared to Windows devices, netbooks, notebooks, and now tablets and e-readers.

So one might speculate that perhaps something similar is happening with traditional UC. When most business communications relied on voice and email, it might be argued that UC had one set of values for users.

It isn’t so clear that traditional UC has the same value when communication modes become much more fragmented. That isn’t to say UC lacks value; simply that the value might be viewed differently as newer modes become more popular.

The question, then, is whether UC is a product with a life cycle, and where the product is, within a normal product life cycle.

Gary Kim is a contributing editor for unified communications. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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