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UC Clients Not Much of a Business, Frost & Sullivan Said

February 26, 2010

“We do not believe UC will be a big revenue source for the vendors,” said Elka Popova, Frost & Sullivan analyst. Keep in mind that Popova is referring here to UC client applications, which got a big push from suppliers in 2009, she said.

The reason for that prediction is that advanced softphones capable of integrating with instant messaging clients and conferencing platforms, as well as with telephony switches, are not strongly correlated with investments in the rest of the infrastructure required for a complete UC implementation, she said.
Customers deploying softphones from their telephony vendors did not always purchase the conferencing or IM and presence servers, even when using clients.
Popova said vendors will give away UC clients to drive adoption of various advanced communications solutions involving conferencing, collaboration and mobility. As business users become increasingly used to the convenience of UC capabilities such as soft clients, conferencing capabilities that are only a click away, as well as video, it will be difficult to take those features away from them.
Conferencing applications and services fared better, as they allowed businesses to reduce travel costs while enabling virtual workers to communicate and collaborate more efficiently. Even conferencing markets, however, experienced increased price pressures, with the impact of the recession being most severe in conferencing endpoint markets and in the more mature audio conferencing services markets.
For SMBs, all-in-one appliances or application stacks are probably most appealing. However, few vendors are capable of offering, on their own, all the required functionality and features in the UC stack. Either the telephony component is still missing critical elements (such as E911), or the IM clients are not very feature-rich, or some other capability is lacking.
Larger customers with multi-vendor environments are better off selecting the specific applications that best meet their needs and then engaging their own (typically more extensive) internal staff or outsourcing the professional services expertise to integrate those capabilities in an end-to-end UC environment.
Unified communications always is a slippery concept, as suggested by the definition Frost & Sullivan uses.
“Frost & Sullivan defines a unified communications application as an integrated set of voice, data and video communications, all of which leverage PC- and telephony-based presence information,” said Elka Popova, Frost & Sullivan analyst.
A unified communications application must contain PC-based presence, telephony presence, point-to-point voice calling, chat, audio conferencing, Web collaboration, PC-based video, Find-me/Follow-me capabilities and unified messaging.

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

Edited by Marisa Torrieri

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