UC in the sky with dialers

Hello again!  It’s been a while since my last post and lots has happened in between.  I won’t go into detail except to say I’ve been flirting with twitter and facebook and sadly still can’t get away from that old relic known as e-mail.

Back to this post.  I’ve been thinking about Unified Communications and Cloud services in fact UCaaS to be specific.

As we all know, UC is a collection of communication tools that historically were siloed.  The telephone, Email, Voice Mail, IM, Video Conferencing and so on.  In the last couple of years and more so this year, we have seen a massive increase in Software as a Service…services targetted at the Enterprise with some very tempting benefits.  Some have made the move successfully whilst others need time to build trust to embrace the concept.  This is particularly true in the finance sector where concerns about security and location of data referenced against local regulations makes it all the more difficult to entertain a move from on-premise to the cloud.  I’m sure this will change over time as richer and more secure services become available and of course the economies of scale kick in and make it a no brainer.

Email and IM in the cloud is nothing new, as consumers, we have been doing it for years, but what about the other services that make up the UC pie? Well this is where I get to the point of this post.  Moving telephony into the cloud… telephony as a service. Nothing new except the providers in the market today are not the traditional Telco.

Look at Cisco, Microsoft, Google and many others who want to provide UCaaS.  To provide 100% UC aren’t they going to have to provide a dialer in the sky? Today, out of the three I mention Cisco are the only one capable of providing on premise Telephony integration into their Saas (WebEx Mail/Connect), but that’s obvious as they are incumbant for Enterprise telephony.  What if an Enterprise wanted to move their PBX off premise and integrate it into their cloud based Email, IM etc?  Will the current big name UCaaS… service providers become Telcos and be regulated as such?

Will Cisco, Microsoft, Google etc now be competing with the likes of BT, Verizon, Singtel, France Telecom and so on?

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Normal service has been resumed.

The BBC reports that Microsoft have walked away from the Yahoo bid.  Does this mean that Yahoo and Microsoft will at last start their engines and get back to producing something new and competitive or will they simply continue on the acquisition trail.  Come on you two…clean up your act and get back to work!

Same old problems.

I remember back in the late 1990s I worked on a project for GE to deploy Microsoft Exchange. GE at the time made a corporate decision to deploy a single messaging platform throughout the globe to overcome what they saw as a business communication problem. They used the analogy of a representative from GE Plastics walking past the representative from GE Lighting in the corridors of General Motors or Chrysler not knowing that they were both working for the same company with the same client and not being able to share any information. They believed that working together Plastics and Lighting could benefit the customer as well as GE. The case was compelling and the sponsorship of a single messaging platform came from the top, it had Jack Welch’s buy-in!

Reading Andrew McAfee’s post today I was reminded of this age and it occurred to me that we are still trying to solve this problem but this time the technology is Enterprise 2.0 and the use of Wikis and Blogs in a bid to reduce the use of email.

His students responses, in my view, are right on the button and his dissection of the responses make perfect sense. They mention cases where Wikis and Blogs can improve the collaboration between diverse businesses and teams within many different organisations, they highlight how collaboration and knowledge sharing can improve business processes, but I still can’t help thinking that whilst technology is evolving and we have new problems to solve, we’ve not fixed the problems that existed all those years ago.

Looking at it from another point of view, maybe we are solving the problem, but in stages. Email was the first step, but we are far from finished.

Tell me

Microsoft, yes Microsoft have launched a voice activated search application for the Blackberry, even before a Windows mobile version! Brushing over that fact, I have to say that I’d love to try it out, but being in the UK it seems I’ll have to wait.

Whilst in the US a couple of weeks ago, I played a lot of golf. Every [other] day we searched local golf courses for times and fees to get the best all round locations. Usually using a desktop/laptop, Google maps and a phone we canvassed local golf courses that met our criteria. As you can imagine, local in Florida is a 30 mile radius and golf courses in a 30 miles radius are plentiful. I’m not going to count.

I can really see how usefull this application can be especially when GPS is stable, fast and effective as it was in Florida.

In the meantime, I’ll be testing Yahoo oneSearch with voice support for Blackbery.

Microsoft Zimbra?

I really like Zimbra’s collaboration suite.  I remember looking into Zimbra, amongst others,  a few years ago when I decided to investigate what alternatives corporate Microsoft Exchange users had if they chose not to follow the MS Exchange road map.

At the time many of the alternatives available on the market lacked mobility, archiving and Outlook integration.  These were some of the criteria at the time.

The lack of functionality is no longer the case.  Zimbra now supports true push to Blackberry devices and also incorporates archiving and discovery.  The reality of moving from a Microsoft server platform is becoming reality.

Having said all that, look a little harder at the corporate level and you’ll see that Zimbra is owned by Yahoo and there is a possibility that this could all fall under a Microsoft brand in the future.  So what will become of Zimbra or indeed Exchange (which incidental is in need of a serious overall from the ground up)?

I can’t wait, but I fear we will all have to.

Search for search

Just over two years ago, I embarked on a project to deploy an Enterprise Search engine within the bank. I may have mentioned this before.

During the period of evaluations and proof of concepts, I attended a few seminars and a couple of meetings with Microsoft who were embarking on repackaging their legacy index server as a search engine delivered with Sharepoint.

I documented my findings from these meetings along with other comparisons and conclusions from the products we looked at, unfortunately they are located on the internal wiki and cannot be referenced here. In any case,my findings were in summary, that Microsoft were making a poor and reactive attempt to compete with Google in the Enterprise. Their only hope would be to either go back to the drawing board, in which case they would be late to the market if they were to bring anything innovative to market or acquire a established Enterprise product.

That was around early 2005 and low and behold, here we are in early 2008!

Personally,I think this is a good move. Not sure about the timing commercially, but financially, yes! Let see what Microsoft decide to do with it.

Calm down dear, it’s only commercial.

I recently suffered a hard drive failure on a machine I’ve had for about two years. It was an IBM laptop running Windows XP with Office and a bunch of other applications that I really can’t remember now. I haven’t lost my memory, it’s just that I haven’t used the applications installed on the laptop for some time. The reason for that is I began migrate myself from the desktop to the web, or from private to public or from 1.0 to 2.0.

My documents, photos, music are now all stored in a cloud somewhere accessible anywhere, anytime.

So suffering a hard disk crash wasn’t the life crippling experience it used to be. In fact, a couple of set backs I can think of was thinking about what capacity drive to purchase and of course the lengthy delay of rebuilding the OS and subsequent security patches.

Let’s face it, I really only need a browser nowadays to communicate and collaborate and of course I have a few choices.

It did cross my mind to move away from a Microsoft environment on the laptop and look to Ubuntu or even attempt to install Apple’s OS X (Leopard) instead. In fact as I write this (on my Powerbook) I’ve decided to go for it and enter the twilight-zone… OS X via a Thinkpad!

Anyway, the point of my post. I guess I’m ‘hip‘ as they say. I can survive in a world of software as a service and even in a non Microsoft world.

I’ll let you know how I get on with this challenge.