Last week I attended Enterprise Connect 2013 where I had over two dozen one-on-one briefings with UC technology and services vendors. Highlights included Microsoft’s keynote by Derek Burney (Corporate VP, Skype Division) the content of which was almost entirely live-demos of Lync mobile and room-based video conferencing run on Lync Online (including using several mobile devices, not all Windows OS, with Smart’s Lync room screens – which performed better that at the Smart booth). The very heavy load on the venue’s Wi-Fi network (which the Cisco keynote demo suffered from the previous day) made the performance particularly impressive. [NB: Funny how comms’ folk are still impressed when the technology performs before a live audience the way it did in the lab.]
Another noteworthy demo was BT Conferencing and Dolby’s demo of very high quality sound-around audioconferencing. This was impressive due to the amount of time most of us spend on audioconferencing or videoconferencing calls where it’s near impossible for a remote attendee to break in, and where side-bar conversations in a meeting room are typically mostly or entirely lost. Moreover, it works equally well with a cheap headphone ($30 models actually work probably better than much more expensive ones that might cause ‘interference’ on the line) – and on Apple as well as Windows devices.
Around 60,000 global movers and shakers of all things mobile once again descended upon Barcelona to attend the leading annual mobility event, the Mobile World Congress (MWC). This year’s main themes centered on metadata analytics, the customer experience, and over-the top business models:
The big data opportunity fueled the fantasies of almost all MWC attendees. In the case of telcos, data analytics is seen as the driver for improving the customer experience and developing new markets. Telcos talked a lot about the opportunities of analysing user behavior and turning user data into the new operator currency. The context- and location-aware nature of mobile solutions makes the big data opportunity particularly attractive. However, despite the talk, there were practically no case studies of operators that have succeeded in monetizing data on a large scale. Progress regarding data monetization is slowed down by a lack of clear business models, but also by an OSS/BSS infrastructure that does not support real-time or near real-time analytics. Moreover, privacy concerns also act as a drag on the uptake of data analytics. Equipment vendors such as Nokia Siemens Networks, meanwhile, showcased their customer experience management and analytics solutions for telcos. The solution combines analytics and the actions that operators must take to correct or improve the end user experience, such as a level one call handler pushing the correct settings to a phone or a marketing manager setting up a marketing campaign.
I'm not going to comment on the $8.5B purchase price, though I'm sure Marc Andreesen's investment company is happy with their return. And I'm not going to comment on the impact on Xbox, Hotmail, and Live.com. And I don't think this has anything to do with Windows Mobile.
But I am going to comment on the impact of the deal on the enterprise, and specifically on content and collaboration professionals responsible for workforce productivity and collaboration. When you strip it down to its essence -- Skype operating as a separate business unit reporting to Steve Ballmer -- here's what you need to know about the Skype deal:
First, Microsoft gets an important consumerization brand. Skype is a powerful consumer brand with a reported 600+ million subscribers. But it's also a "consumerization brand," meaning that it's a valuable brand for people who use Skype to get their jobs done. Consumerization of IT is just people using familiar consumer tools to get work done. It's a force of technology-based innovation as we wrote about in our book, Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, Transform Your Business. Google and Apple and Skype have dominant consumerization brands. Microsoft does not. Until now. And as a bonus, Google doesn't get to buy Skype. And more importantly, neither does Cisco.