For years, the unified communications (UC) market has focused on merging email, instant messaging, video and VoIP on one unified platform in order to improve response times and bolster productivity. Now users want more flexibility, which makes mobile UC a priority for many enterprises.
A recent unified communications survey by Infonetics Research revealed that mobile UC will be a top priority in 2012, and UC products with video capabilities will begin to rise in popularity.
The survey asked 120 mid-sized to large organizations to describe their UC strategies and identify their primary vendors. While flexibility and mobility were identified as UC trends in 2011, Diane Myers, directing analyst at Infonetics and author of the survey, said these flexible mobile UC features should emerge as the primary requirements of UC solutions in 2012.
“Organizations want their employees to be able to communicate wherever, whenever,” Myers said. “Vendors are going to want to create [mobile] UC tools for a mobile environment so [enterprises] can give their employees the ability to be very flexible.”
Vendors start to address mobile UC trend
Last week, UC provider Avaya announced the availability of an iPad version of its mobile collaboration platform, Avaya Flare Communicator.
The offering, which leverages the Avaya Aura UC architecture, enables voice, instant messaging and email integration over Wi-Fi and 3G networks. The application is now available as a free download for users via the Apple App Store. Avaya plans to make versions of the application on other mobile platforms and operating systems later this year.
The Flare Communicator is Avaya’s first UC and collaboration client specifically designed for the iPad. During open beta testing, the application was downloaded 4,000 times by users in a variety of industries, including health care, education and retail customers.
“In the context of the mobile environment, the iPad is very complimentary for many industries,” said Lawrence Byrd, director of collaboration solutions at Avaya. “Users can be on a laptop in the morning, their smartphone while traveling and on an iPad in the lobby of their customer’s shop, all of which need to become their communication environments.”
UC vendors will be tackling mobility in earnest in 2012, and enterprises should ask about mobile UC features when selecting a vendor, Myers said. A mobile UC application like the Flare Communicator is the type of mobility product that most vendors will develop, she said.
While the tablet will not replace the laptop in 2012, Avaya’s Flare speaks to the growing demand for mobile UC applications for the increasingly popular device, Myers said. Tablets like the iPad have particular potential for mobile video communications, she added.
“The smartphone in many places will become a primary device, but I think we will see the rise of tablet, and what else can be done with it -- especially around video communications,” Myers said.
BYOD movement drives mobile UC trend
The Infonetics survey identified the laptop and the desk phone as the main UC devices relied upon in 2011 by enterprise employees. In 2012, Myers said she expects smartphones to overtake desk phones.
“Businesses are looking at solutions, particularly around flexible and mobile UC solutions," Myers said. “The proliferation of smartphones has tied those devices into UC architecture.”
The bring your own device (BYOD) trend is also helping to drive the mobility theme into 2012.
“Enterprises are noticing that employees are using tablets and smartphones, and want to be able to use business tools on those technologies, whether or not they are company-sanctioned,” Myers said.
Video conferencing will become more popular in mobile UC
2011 saw a surge of video conferencing adoption, and video is starting to converge with mobile UC, according to Myers. “As these video interfaces are downloaded to more smartphones, I think they will start to become prolific this year,” she said.
“I think video is going to become more critical, because people are going to start expecting that capability for their business communications,” she said.
Myers cautioned that enterprises must keep video conferencing security in mind as video becomes more popular, especially as users use it more for external communications. Such outside-the-enterprise video communications could become more common as Microsoft matures its acquisition of Skype, she added.
“[Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype] could really open things up interestingly,” Myers said. “It could really broaden the reach beyond just internal communications and could potentially do it in a secure way.”
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer