Lots of sleek new touchscreen and tablet devices have launched this year. Where many information workers and consumers see nifty new devices with high-resolution screens and multiple wireless interfaces that enable Web surfing and greater ease of use, I see a new class of device. I call them collaboration devices because I believe that they are especially suited to collaboration tasks that today’s information worker must perform with increasing regularity while on the move. There is an open space in the market for these devices caused by the colliding market forces of an increasing need for employees within a company to quickly and efficiently communicate and the increasing likelihood that these employees will not be in the same location. Most companies today (approximately 60% according to Forrester’s Enterprise And SMB Software Survey, North America And Europe, Q4 2009) are adopting Web conferencing, and information workers are increasingly mobile and distributed — a device that can be on the go and connect to communications and collaboration tools easily will be highly valued. These devices feature slick, usable interfaces and unique connectivity capabilities. Many of these devices run on Android, creating an opportunity and a challenge for Android to enter the business applications market. Android-based devices will fall short of any collaboration aspiration until the marketplace offers standard enterprise Web conferencing tools — where are my Cisco WebEx, AT&T Connect, etc., clients for Android?
It was common knowledge that Microsoft was releasing a new version of its communications and collaboration suite this year, but behind the traditional development cycle, the Microsoft marketing machine was operating at full speed as well. The name “Communications” has been replaced by “Lync” broadly across the traditional OCS product line, reflecting in my opinion, the fact that enterprise communications and collaboration is all about linking the people, processes, and thoughts that drive creativity. I am fond of saying that there is the verb “to collaborate” (what humans do to create new and better ideas together) and the noun “collaboration” (what many tech vendors sell in the form of collaboration platform software). By adopting the name Lync, I believe that Microsoft is taking to heart the requirement for communications software to link people, processes, and ideas, while SharePoint remains the place where those ideas are stored and shared on enterprise networks for companies that have adopted Microsoft’s unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) products broadly.
Beyond the name, I believe that the most compelling news is that Microsoft is now getting serious about its Microsoft Lync Server being ready to replace the private branch exchange (PBX). Many Microsoft execs — from Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president for the Office Communications Group, through BJ Haberkorn, OCS senior product manager responsible for voice — have spent extensive time telling me about the reliability and scalability of Microsoft’s voice services within its UC&C solutions. Microsoft continues to expand its feature set to compete robustly with other communications vendors. New capabilities of the Microsoft Lync Server include:
Rich presence providing access to things like location or user skills.