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Unified communications market predictions for 2008

Unified communications will continue to revolutionize the way we communicate in 2008. Yankee Group's Zeus Kerravala gives his UC market predictions for 2008 so you can get a head start on implementation within your organization.

Zeus Kerravala, vice president for enterprise infrastructure, Yankee Group

It's the time of year again when we analysts look into our crystal ball and try to predict what will happen over the next 12 months. Before I get to the predictions, however, I wanted to give out some thanks for the past 12 months. First, the biggest thanks go to the readers of this column. Without you, there would be no column! Thanks to everyone for their support and emails either agreeing or disagreeing with what I'm saying (any feedback is good feedback). Second, thanks to the TechTarget editorial staff who provided editorial support to me over the year.

Now, on to the predictions…

1. Vendor consolidation continues
This is kind of an easy one, since it should be obvious to everyone who follows this market that there are far too many vendors in this market and not enough buyers. I'll make a bold prediction in here that Siemens will be acquired by May, most likely by a private equity firm. But it could also merge with another vendor to create a larger entity to battle the likes of Avaya, Microsoft and Cisco. For those who aren't familiar with the Siemens HiPath 8000, it's a pure software- and standards-based platform and will fit neatly into anyone's portfolio.

2. The software industry gets interested in unified communications
I've written over and over about how unified communications isn't so much a product as a set of capabilities that can be integrated into other applications. The emergence of Microsoft, IBM and Citrix as UC vendors will create interest among the ISVs that are part of the developer communities of the aforementioned companies. Microsoft debuted OCS integrated with Duet at their launch, and we'll see integration of UC tools into many more applications in 2008.

3. Corporations start to use mainstream social networking sites to collaborate with external parties
Most of the collaboration tools today do a great job of allowing us to communicate with people in our own organization. To communicate with individuals outside our organization, we turn to consumer tools such as instant messaging. In 2008, we'll start to see some organizations not only endorse but promote the use of social networking sites like MySpace and FaceBook. The younger generation uses it today, and we'll see these tools move up the age curve over the next 12 months. For those of you considering signing up, make sure your HR department and business units are involved so the individual users within your organization know what they should post on their page and what they should not. I would think most companies don't want to see corporate information mixed in with New Year's Eve party photos!

4. Microsoft becomes a top three vendor and IBM fades
Microsoft won't be top three as far as market share goes by the end of 2008, but it will be on everyone's short list with Cisco and Avaya. IBM has a huge Notes installed base they could leverage, but they've been slow to capitalize on this, and Microsoft's aggressiveness will leave IBM wondering what that wind was that just passed them.

5. Despite its partnership with Microsoft, Nortel continues to slide -- Mitel and Siemens benefit
On paper, the "Innovative Communications Alliance" (ICA) between Nortel and Microsoft should give the beleaguered Nortel a much needed shot in the arm. However, Mitel and Siemens have been far more aggressive and timely with their Microsoft integration and will benefit from it during the upcoming year.

6. Vendors fight for the small and mid-market in 2008
Most of the vendor community has built UC platforms to address the needs of the enterprise and watched as the market slowly plodded along. Small and medium-sized businesses can often be more nimble and adopt technology faster than large, politically driven enterprises. For those of you in smaller companies, expect to see many of the traditional large enterprise vendors knocking on your door. Small market vendors such as ShoreTel will face much steeper competition, also creating favorable pricing for this market segment.

7. UC goes mobile
Unified communications has historically been a desktop-driven market, but in 2007 we did see a few vendors integrate some tools into a few smartphones. In 2008, expect to see greater UC integration into devices such as BlackBerrys, Nokia E61 and possibly even the iPhone, if the management at Apple wake up and realize there's a corporate opportunity here.

8. The enthusiasm over videoconferencing fades, and it goes back to being a "nice to have"
In 2007, we saw some innovative video tools such as Cisco's Telepresence and Microsoft Roundtable, which created a new wave of interest in video. A wave of video hype rippled through 2007, but 2008 will bring us more of what we have had in the past. Video will revert to being something cool that IT managers intend to get to when the time is there.

9. Application networking vendors such as F5, Citrix, Riverbed and Packeteer become important to UC deployments
These vendors make a living by providing infrastructure that improves the performance of applications. UC is an application like the ones these vendors support, and in 2008 we will see the application networking vendors address many of the challenges in deploying UC. F5, because of its tight relationship with Microsoft, will have the biggest impact.

10. Communications Enabled Business Process (CEBP) hits the call center
CEBP came into 2007 with a flurry of hype and promise, driven primarily by Avaya. Despite the promise, deployments were slow, with one of the barriers being an uncertainty about how to measure the benefit of a process that was "CEBPed." The call center is the one area where very detailed metrics are recorded and understood, and it will be a good proving ground for CEBP.

So there are my top 10 predictions for 2008. The past year was an interesting one, with Microsoft throwing its hat into the UC ring, and 2008 will prove to be just as exciting.

About the author:
Zeus Kerravala manages Yankee Group's infrastructure research and consulting, working with customers to solve business issues through the deployment of infrastructure technology solutions, including switching, routing, network management, voice solutions and VPNs. Before joining Yankee Group, Kerravala was a senior engineer and technical project manager for Greenwich Technology Partners; a vice president of IT for Ferris, Baker Watts; and technical project manager for Alex, Brown & Sons. Kerravala obtained a B.S. degree in physics and mathematics from the University of Victoria (Canada).

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