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Top 10 unified communications stories of 2011

In 2011, a new vision for unified communications (UC) began to take shape, driven by rapid technological innovations and unexpected changes in the vendor space. Our list of the top 10 unified communications stories of 2011 reveal the key drivers of the new UC market and which vendors made an impression upon both the UC market and our readers.

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10. Telepresence room design: Do you really need to buy a vendor's chairs?

Video conferencing has been one of the hottest topics in UC this year. The results of TechTarget’s annual SearchUnifiedCommunications.com reader survey show that over 50% of our readers have already deployed a video conferencing application -- the top three drivers for video conferencing implementations include reduced travel costs, improved operation of business processes and increased employee engagement among remote offices. The future looks bright for video conferencing in 2012, as 65% of our readers will see an increase in their video conferencing budget. Twenty-five percent of the overall video conferencing spend for 2012 is allocated specifically for telepresence systems.

Though the value of immersive telepresence systems is measurable, these sophisticated systems are expensive due in part to the rigid vendor mandates for telepresence room design. Do you really need to buy a vendor’s chairs?

9. Microsoft/Skype: Once skeptical UC pros reassessing enterprise Skype

Just when we wondered if enterprises would ever warm up to Skype for business communications, Microsoft announced its plans to buy Skype for $8.5 billion. Prior to the acquisition, Skype was struggling to gain ground in the enterprise market, and unified communications (UC) pros lacked confidence in the company’s ability to deliver enterprise-grade quality, reliability, security and support.

As an enterprise software provider, Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype is on par with the company’s application-centric approach to UC deployment strategies. Microsoft's acquisition of Skype will likely buy the company a competitive position in the cloud -- a decisive move away from a direct application-linked approach to UC toward a more communications-centric one.

8. Desktop video conferencing software's Web client ups flexibility

The flexibility, portability and ease-of-use of software-based desktop video conferencing is an attractive alternative to proprietary, hardware-based video conferencing systems and complicated telepresence systems. Desktop video conferencing has matured so much, in fact, that initiating a desktop video conference is akin to picking up a phone and placing a call.

As desktop video conferencing deployments continue to increase, concerns around video conferencing interoperability and integration continue to escalate. This year, video conferencing equipment  vendor Polycom spearheaded the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC), a consortium aimed at delivering breakthrough video connectivity and interoperability by allowing carriers to enable multivendor, multicarrier B2B video conferencing across private wide area networks (WANs).

7. Business tablet hype at Enterprise Connect: Mobile UC

Forget inroads, tablets have made superhighways into enterprise communications and operations -- so much so that some are calling for a “tabletized” conception for UC. In our annual reader survey, 45% of readers report using tablets on the job along with other business communication endpoints or tools. Though IT pros are enthusiastic about the potential business and productivity value of business tablets, supporting UC applications on these devices is less important than supporting basic services such as email, calendaring, VPN and mobile-optimized versions of common business applications.

Vendors such as Cisco and Avaya have released a new class of enterprise tablets -- UC tablets. Falling somewhere between smartphones and consumer tablets, enterprise UC tablets offer many of the attributes of general purpose consumer tablets like Apple’s iPad, but are geared specifically for the needs of the enterprise UC market. UC tablets come preloaded with video conferencing, presence, instant messaging and collaboration tools. While UC tablets will certainly play a role in comprehensive enterprise UC strategies, the question is how significant that role will be.

6. Enterprise social software Magic Quadrant: Assess user need first

The enterprise social software market has surpassed the "good enough" threshold, maturing into more sophisticated social collaboration platforms with advanced features and improved usability, according to the social software Magic Quadrant report. There are nearly two dozen vendors populating the social software Magic Quadrant, and they roughly fall into the three vendor types: specialist social application vendors, established enterprise platform vendors and business application vendors. Deciding among these vendor types and their differing applications will require companies to closely assess their user and business needs.

Despite the many collaborative and productivity benefits of social software, the number of companies actually deploying and using internal social software is very small. According to TechTarget’s annual SearchUnifiedCommunications.com reader survey results, 62% of respondents currently have no plans to implement a social business solution, though nearly 30% are currently evaluating social software products.

Both businesses and individual end users need to understand the value business social software provides. The key to a successful social software implementation ultimately depends on end-user adoption rather than the technology.

Read on for the rest of the top 10 unified communications stories and shakeups of 2011.

 

This was first published in December 2011

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