Unified Communications Featured Article

Unified Communications and Video are Hindered by a Lack of Industry Standards

November 08, 2012

There is plenty of potential in unified communications, but perhaps even more than people realize. That’s mostly because the potential is blocked by so many competing vendors preventing their systems from communicating with each other. In a new paper by Dr. Michael Katz and Dr. Bryan Keating, they have found just how much vendors stand to lose if they don’t adopt industry standards, and enable video calls between different systems.

Unified communications, particularly video calling, can greatly help businesses and employees. It bolsters productivity, improves collaboration, allows for remote training and services and even helps save money on travel costs. Yet if businesses want to really get the most out of UC, and provide the best growth in the UC market, industry standards are a must. Enterprise customers must consider interoperability, and creating industry standards will help lower costs and improve flexibility.

In the study, which Cisco commissioned, Keating and Katz found some important details about UC technology. Not only is the lack of interoperability hindering widespread adoption, but vendors could benefit from standards. The more users that are connected, the more valuable the technologies become, even if they’re connected from different systems. Switching between vendors is also a costly effort, and may make one lose important complementary products; it would be so much easier on everyone if there was a level of interoperability.

However, there are vendors that can gain from all the above reasons, and would therefore try to undermine standards or refuse to adopt them. After all, if they have more users connected to their own devices, the more valuable it becomes compared to the others. They can also benefit from the costs of switching vendors and selling new complementary products. It would be detrimental to the customer, but good for the vendor.

As such, the report concludes that the UC market needs to be monitored to avoid anti-competitive conduct. That way, industry standards can be enforced without one vendor trying to drag down everyone else.

"As video collaboration becomes increasingly mainstream, multiple vendors will have to work together to enable global scale and broad customer choice similar to what consumers have today with phone, Internet and email," says Marthin De Beer, senior VP of Cisco Video & Collaboration Group. "Only with a truly open video community will we fully reap the economic and social benefits of this transformational technology."

Interoperability and industry standards have been in demand from customers for a while now, but as vendors continue to compete, the less likely they are to work together. As such, while they might gain some profit from it, the customers are the ones paying for their selfishness. Vendors should consider setting industry standards, and then we can all gain the full benefits that UC, particularly video, can provide.

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