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.
A year and a half ago I broke up with Blackberry and started dating iPhone. It was a clean but cruel breakup: AT&T cancelled my T-Mobile contract on my behalf, the equivalent of getting dumped by your girlfriend’s new boyfriend.
This year I’ve been cheating on my laptop with my iPad. But it’s an on-again, off-again relationship. While I tell my iPad it’s the only one, I keep going back to my laptop. When I travel, my iPad is with me meeting clients. Meanwhile my laptop is in the hotel room surfing the online menu for a turkey club.
The iPad beats my laptop on size, weight, connectivity, and battery life. It also improves the human element when I’m having a face-to-face conversation but need to take notes. These are all critically important to me when I'm out of the office visiting clients or at an event.
But my laptop wins when I need to perform other important activities. For example, the larger screen really helps to write and edit research reports (John Rakowski, you’ll have your edits soon!). Or when I need to approve expenses behind the VPN or access files on my hard drive that I haven’t stored in Google Drive (yes, Forrester sanctioned).
Now that I've had a few months of compare both devices, I come back to outcomes . . .
Recently I attended one of the day-long events in Munich that Google offers as part of its atmosphere on tour road show that visits 24 cities globally in 2012. The event series is aimed at enterprise customers and aims to get them interested in Google’s enterprise solutions, including Google Apps, search, analytics and mapping services, as well as the Chrome Book and Chrome Box devices.
Google Enterprise as a division has been around for some time, but it is only fairly recently that Google started to push the enterprise solutions more actively into the market through marketing initiatives. The cloud-delivery model clearly plays a central role for Google’s enterprise pitch (my colleague Stefan Ried also held a presentation on the potential of cloud computing at the event).
Still, the event itself was a touch light on details and remained pretty high level throughout. Whilst nobody expects Google to communicate a detailed five-year plan, it would have been useful to get more insights into Google’s vision for the enterprise and how it intends to cater to these needs. Thankfully, prior to the official event, Google shared some valuable details of this vision with us. The four main themes that stuck out for us are:
Avaya announced its intention and agreement to purchase Radvision today. These two technological powerhouses have the combined brainpower to put together some of the most advanced unified communications solutions in the world. Radvision’s experience in building complex modular communication components plus Avaya’s strength in delivering complete, reliable communications solutions is an appealing combination. The strengths of this combination include:
Breadth of open technologies. Radvision’s H.323 and SIP stacks will combine neatly with Avaya’s Aura architecture to enable a wide range of interoperable communications solutions from varying vendors built on multiple old and new technologies.
Video portfolio. Radvision’s Scopia videoconferencing portfolio (from desktop to telepresence) extends Avaya’s current partner-driven video endpoint model.
The cloud. Radvision’s service provider relationships gives Avaya a firmer footing from which to sell cloud solutions to service providers.
Issues that management will have to deal with in the combined company:
Cultural fit. Avaya’s consensus-driven and collaborative culture may not provide the direction Radvision’s developers got used to within Radvision’s traditional command and control structure.
Revenue growth. Radvision has been on a slide. The Avaya/Radvision combination will have to open new markets and increase win rates to pay back the $230 million purchase price — approximately three times Radvision’s annual revenue.
Avaya execs kicked off their sales and partner conference predictably — reviewing Avaya’s eight quarters of revenue growth, a shift of nearly a third of Avaya revenue to the channel in the last two years, and significant new product developments and introductions. The company’s focus on total solution results accruing to users (via Flare), to IT infrastructure owners (via Avaya Aura SIP-based architectures), and to Business Process owners (via Avaya ACE integration to business processes) allows partners and sales teams to have discussions with various buyers and influencers in the unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) market. This fits well with Avaya’s theme of “The Power of We” — not only do the solutions help customers work better collaboratively, but the partner programs aim to bring Avaya and its channels together to fulfill these needs. Kevin Kennedy stressed that the accelerating improvements in corporate results (revenue, margin, net promoter, and patents) are the result of many initiatives across the company —from product development to partner programs and beyond. One of his slides highlighted Avaya’s intention to deliver Faster collaborations that lead to Smarter decisions and Better business — Avaya is offering Faster, Better, Smarter to both channels and UC&C buyers.
Since this was a sales and channel conference, I took special note of the partners who sponsored and presented to the larger audience. I saw a clear representation of the broad opportunities and capabilities that demonstrate Avaya’s commitment delivering through channels to market — in short, the partners demonstrated that they value Avaya’s capabilities and transparency in going to market.
Two weeks ago, I used this blog to talk about videoconferencing solutions being deployed on portable platforms, namely tablets like the Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy. Every video vendor is rushing to offer a more portable video experience to extend the use cases they support and drive more value — and more business. Mobility is a key information worker characteristic that video vendors are rushing to satisfy, and announcements over the last 24 hours bring two more requirements into focus:
Usability. Yesterday (31 Oct., 2011), Dimension Data published a press release about their global, managed visual communications services. They stressed the need to educate employees about how and when to use video — and their ability to assure availability and reliability — to increase adoption and thus the value of videoconferencing within an enterprise. Dimension Data will likely leverage elements of their Adoption Management Program (AMP) to educate users and drive adoption, while relying on their deep capabilities in delivering managed interoperable services across the unified communications and collaboration market to deliver reliability.
How much of your IT operating and capital budget will go to UC related investments? I predict that spending by large distributed enterprises (defined as firms with 1,000 or more employees) on communications infrastructure and services will grow between 7% and 10% per year during the next three years. Moreover, there will be a gradual shift away from hardware to software, and wireless connectivity will account for MOST of the growth in communications services spending.
Momentum is building for broader UC adoption, and our Q1 2011 survey of 601 firms that have implemented or are piloting a UC solution showed that 55% of the respondents consider UC a top priority this year.
There are two BIG drivers of widespread UC adoption in large distributed organizations: Mobility and new business models (how UC technology and services are delivered). Mobility will become the “tail that wags the UC dog.” Why? Consider the management and usage cost efficiencies offered by fixed mobile convergence (FMC) technology — least-cost routing savings including reduced international calling and roaming charges, to name one.
Mobile video solutions are riding a wave of demand from technology-centric information workers to help keep them connected in today’s geographically distributed, frenetically paced workplace. Many workers are bringing their own devices (and video communications applications) to work today. Resourceful information workers use video communications solutions that they have used in their consumer life to help them succeed at work. I have spoken to a bank that uses Skype on Internet-connected TVs to hold internal video meetings to reach executive consensus in the decision-making process, and to system integrators that use FaceTime to contact on-site teams to improve response time and communications clarity when resolving issues. Several Forrester clients have shared that they are uncomfortable using consumer video solutions for business purposes — citing the need for compliance and security. Video conferencing vendors have taken note and are working to ease adoption of their business-grade solutions — two recent examples leverage the popularity of tablets with technology-centric information workers.
Polycom and Vidyo have announced tablet-ready versions of their personal video portfolios recently — and their applications are available in the Android Market and Apple AppStore today. Avaya* and Cisco** have also launched tablet-powered video communications solutions. Both offer the option of delivering video on their own end point devices to optimize all forms of unified communications on a tablet. These solutions bring business-grade video conferencing to increasingly popular tablet platforms like the Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy — delivering slick, engaging video experiences as seen in this photo.
As a former investment analyst, I remember the feeling when stock market screens turn deep red. Such days turn one’s stomach upside down on a dealing floor. But even from the outside, such days are unnerving. The big question in the telecoms markets making the rounds at present is how the current market turmoil will affect the telcos. The 2008 financial crisis might provide some clues to what we could expect in 2011 and 2012, albeit in a less-pronounced fashion:
Consumer spending on communications will remain pretty stable. During the last financial crisis, spending on communications remained largely untouched by the consumer. We do expect a slight migration towards flat rates for customers with the desire for greater cost certainties and towards prepaid by customers with the desire to lower their communication expenditure. One obvious danger in times of turmoil are price wars between service providers. They can offer only short-term growth relief, but at a high cost. Resulting poor margins will be felt for a long time.
Businesses will put nonessential IT projects on hold or water them down. We have not yet seen evidence that COOs and IT departments have tapped the brakes on their tech buying, but they certainly have become more cautious. If the economies of the US or Europe go into recession — a possibility, but not our baseline forecast — that will hit IT budgets, as happened in 2008 and 2009. I am hearing from telecoms providers that their enterprise sales pipelines are already under pressure as customers slow their IT investments and look for ways to reduce their telecom services spending. Projects that support end-users with their sales efforts, e.g., sales force automation projects, are likely to be less affected than others.
What does this mean? Mobile, video-communicating, iWorkers will be able stay connected easily and affordably later this quarter when all of these components are generally available. Using the PC client, a very portable codec (about the size of a half-notebook at 8” x 5” x 1”) and camera, and a hosted bridging service, these iWorkers can connect to many standards-based, open video endpoints at HD resolutions. The required components are:
LifeSize Connections service - $360/year.
LifeSize Passport Connect codec and camera - $1,000 up front.
Mirial ClearSea client account - $480/year (this is available today, and it worked well when I tried it).