What's really driving the UC and collaboration market

The cloud, APIs and mobility are the major trends coming out of Enterprise Connect. Analysts break down how these trends are impacting the UC and collaboration market.

ORLANDO, FLA. -- The UC and collaboration market is rapidly shifting as new technologies, services and vendors emerge.  But the pace of these changes makes it difficult to decipher what's really impacting the industry and what trends enterprises should pay attention to.

At Enterprise Connect, analysts discussed the trends they see in key areas of the UC and the collaboration market and how vendors are supporting new business communication needs.

"It's an extremely dynamic market," said Tim Banting, principal analyst at Current Analysis, based in Sterling, Va. "There are a lot of new entries, especially in the cloud."

He said areas like persistent chat and video are seeing explosive growth, reflecting the fact that barriers of entry for new vendors are low. As a result, the market is seeing consolidation-- RingCentral's purchase of Glip and Atos' acquisition of Unify being just two examples--as larger vendors look to expand the capabilities and features they offer.

"A lot of vendors are shying away from best of breeds and offering best of suites," he said. "The PBX is no longer the platform -- you'll see a suite of products being offered to you in order to address all areas of communication and collaboration."

The cloud and its role in the collaboration market

Meantime, vendors like Cisco are putting a lot of emphasis on the cloud, said Peter Hale, senior analyst at MZA, but there is still a large market of organizations committed to on-premises.

"Just because the cloud is there doesn't make it the best solution for everyone," Hale said.

Organizations shouldn't feel compelled to move their infrastructure to the cloud. A lot of organizations will keep their headquarters on-premises while moving branch offices to the cloud, he said.

"If you want to keep your premise solution today you can do that," he said. "But you can take new features from the cloud and make them work together."

That demand is fueling the rise of APIs that make it easier for vendors in the collaboration market to offer cloud features that enterprises want and need, Hale said. Case in point: Cisco's acquisition of cloud API provider Tropo,  which will allow the vendor to create a developer community to enhance Spark and create different cloud ecosystems for organizations.

UC endpoints another collaboration market trend

While mobility is a hot topic at Enterprise Connect, the desk phone still dominates. Hale said that more than 50% of sales of desk phones and UC clients in the North American call control market in 2015 were for desk phones alone.

"It seems like old-hat these days, but there are a lot of environments where a desk phone is the most used device for an end-user customer," he said.

But desk phones sales are slowly declining in favor of desktop and mobile UC clients. Hale said the use of desk phones and desktop UC clients together accounted for 29% of sales in 2015. Desktop UC clients alone accounted for 10% of sales.

Mobile UC client adoption is slow, accounting for less than 1% of sales, Hale said, but the use of desk phones, desktop clients and mobile clients together is growing.

Collaboration market coming to fork in road?

Banting said the communications and collaboration market is reaching a fork in the road, where some vendors go to the real-time communications route and others go the collaboration route.

He said there have been two phases of enterprise communication. The first phase began 15 years ago with the convergence of communication technology. The most recent phase is the virtualization of communication with instant messaging, conferencing, voice and video. The next phase, Banting said, will focus on team productivity.

To that end, Banting said companies are going to need systems that are simple, easy to adopt and adaptable as they realign and redesign their business processes.

"When you look at that model, you can see it's about much more than just voice now," he said.

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