Friday, April 30, 2010

UC Summit 2010 -- Part I -- Everything Old is New Again

I attended the UC Summit 2010 conference this week, and it was a very interesting look inside the broader unified communications market.  There were keynote sessions from (almost) all of the major vendor sponsors, including: Cisco, IBM, Avaya, and NEC.  The one exception was Microsoft, which apparently is going through a re-organization of its unified communications group, and so their scheduled speaker was a last minute cancel and replaced by a round table of speakers on Microsoft's channel programs.  I'll break my observations down across a few posts.

This was a very different conference for me.  As someone who has been to many many Lotus conferences, it was an odd feeling to be a part of a conference where the majority of individuals came from a different background--namely telephony resellers and vendors.  The main conference themes were clearly targeted at these attendees, and it was fascinating.

One theme that was expressed over and over was that the UC industry was moving from a hardware focus to a software focus.  This was espoused by Blair Pleasant in the very first workshop of the conference, and echoed by many others.  It is clearly a major shift in the industry, and given the conversations throughout the week, it was clearly disruptive and causing anxiety among the traditional VARs in this space.  For myself as a Lotus business partner, I was actually heading the opposite direction--going from a complete software focus to meet them in the middle where the software touches the telephony.

Nowhere was this move to evolve from a telephony hardware business more evident than in the keynote by Cisco.  Cisco is now positioning itself not as a networking, telephony nor even a unified communications company.  Instead, the great next new thing is ... collaboration!  Several times during this presentation I had to double-check and make sure I was listening to the Cisco presentation and not a Lotus presentation.  From
  • touting the importance of technology, process and culture (ok, I guess IBM called it people, process and technology), 
  • to promoting open architecture and industry standards, 
  • to its new emphasis on applying collaboration to industry verticals, 
Cisco sounded like it was singing more than a single verse from the Lotus hymnal.
The other big theme from Cisco was the importance of video for collaboration--not surprising given that John Chambers has spoken of video as the next big thing for many years now.  And with Cisco's Tandberg acquisition, Cisco can now make it so.  Cisco is predicting that video traffic will account for 80% of all network traffic in the future, and it was clear to more than one person in the audience that that would mean some tidy profits for Cisco's traditional business as well.

Well, Lotus may be 20 years ahead of Cisco in the collaboration space, but Cisco has listened to the teachings of the elder closely, and has some spry legs underneath it.  More importantly, it knows how to market the heck out of its products, and not abstract themes.  It should prove interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years.

That's all for this post... More on the UC Summit 2010 to come.

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