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Unified communications integration, interoperability and some uncanny timing

I promise no one leaked the UCIF story to us.

It was convenient timing that we were planning a story on unified communications integration for Thursday just as the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum went public the day before. The two stories highlight a subtle but important difference about interoperability versus integration — one that was admittedly a bit lost on me when all the UCIF news first started to flood my inbox.

Reporters often look for (and latch onto at first sight, for better or worse) what we call a news hook. It tells readers more about why they should care about an issue. It tells them why they should care today, based on some recent event or revelation. It brings timeliness and relevancy. So when UCIF announced its formation on Wednesday, I thought it must be my lucky day. News hook falls into my lap! I even booked an interview with Polycom founder and CTO Jeff Rodman — not the usual director of product marketing spokesperson vendors offer us (no offense, directors of product marketing).

Jeff led me through an interesting 20-minute discussion on why and how UCIF was formed, and it sounds like it will serve an interesting role in unified communications (especially if, as he said they plan, the alliance is able to start stamping interoperable products as UCIF tested and approved). I asked him about what work they were doing or might plan to do to foster unified communications integration — so that we can all stop juggling/getting lost in five different UC applications. He told me it was out of scope for the alliance, but it might be something they’d consider down the line.


Well, there goes that idea.

Hopes dashed, I asked him something we had all been wondering about when we saw the UCIF starting lineup. Something juicier. There were lots of vendors on that member list. But besides Microsoft and HP, none of the other top names we usually hear about when we think of UC, such as Avaya, Cisco, IBM — where were they? Did the UCIF tree house have a sign outside that read, ‘No other multibillion-dollar companies allowed’? ‘Leave your Lotus at the door’?

Here’s the response I got, after the jump…

“What’s happening is this is moving very quickly. We started serious hardcore recruitment two weeks ago, and companies often take a while to react. There’s often a process of deciding what it is they want to do,” Rodman said. “With large companies, you’re going to have a number of people involved, and once they decide, ‘We want to do this — oops, we have a legal process. Oops, we need to review some documents. Oops, we need to make some changes.'”

OK, so they ran into some red tape. But did they at least RSVP?

“At this point, no companies have said, ‘We don’t want to join.’ Nobody’s declined us. We are continuing to talk with the companies you’ve mentioned and other companies,” he told me. “We have many expectations that many more players will join.”

So, there you go. Hopefully you still find this week’s story still relevant, and who knows? You may finally get OCS to interoperate with your IP PBX, after all… just be sure to let me know when you integrate them.

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