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The future of unified communications: Forget 2012, how about 2020?

The unified communications market will evolve radically by 2020, fueled in part by mobile broadband and cloud services adoption.

Most technology planners and buyers count themselves fortunate if they can just plot an optimal course to get them...

through the year ahead. Some, though, have to take a longer view, or simply like to think ahead. For those people, talking about the hottest UC issues of 2012 just isn’t enough. It’s the coming decade -- the world of communications and collaboration in 2020 and beyond -- that’s really interesting.

The future of UC

A new era of UC is taking shape as UC vendors begin to make meaningful changes to UC products and strategies and deliver true UC integration.

For that group, here’s a vision of what work might look like in the first year of that new decade.

By 2020, mobile broadband will have been completely integrated into work practices to the point where all workers whose jobs have an information component will be empowered with mobile broadband devices. Furthermore, those devices will link workers to company information, as well as to other workers.

In one sense, communications, collaboration, application execution and information will be truly unified. Enterprises estimate that this step will generate a larger cloud services market than the shifting of current applications from internal IT to the cloud -- more than double that market, in fact.

What happens to the “private” or “hybrid” cloud then? The answer is that in this new model, there will be no meaningful distinction between public and private clouds at all. Cloud architecture will have created a seamless resource pool, and while companies will put policies on applications and components to manage their costs and security, moving resources from public to private will be automatic within these policies.

2020 to usher in feature and function components for IT use

The effect of this shift will be to generate a completely different conception of an application and even of a server. By 2020, there will be no such thing as CRM, MRP or even UC in the sense of dedicated software and hardware solutions. Instead, there will be a series of component suites, features and functions reduced to their lowest level that can be composed into a variety of solutions.

These components will be mashed up via HTML 5 to create personalized views of information, IT processes, interpersonal communications and collaboration. Servers and storage will still exist in both enterprise data centers and cloud provider centers, of course, but what will be important are virtual platforms for applications that can expand and contract as needed, shifting easily among providers and to enterprises’ own resources.

By 2020, there will be no such thing as CRM, MRP or even UC in the sense of dedicated software and hardware solutions.
Tom NollePresident CIMI Corp.

In this new model, work practices will change enormously because the cloud will be coupled very tightly to work behavior. Technologies like RFIDs, quick response (QR) codes, geotags and other machine identification tags on products, elements and even places will make it possible for workers to “scan” things and get instructions and alerts without explicitly asking something.

For example, a worker sent to fix something might be monitored en route to make sure the worker goes to the right place. The worker might scan a tag to confirm he or she opens the right cabinet or goes to the right office, and the material the worker uses -- components or even presentations -- will be validated before it’s used. This will generate a flood of new information about how work is done, and generate whole new application areas for analytics and business intelligence.

Don't miss part two of Tom Nolle's piece projecting what the new world of communication and collaboration might look like in 2020.

Tom Nolle, President, CIMI Corp.About the author: Tom Nolle is president of CIMI Corporation, a strategic consulting firm specializing in telecommunications and data communications since 1982. He is the publisher of Netwatcher, a journal addressing advanced telecommunications strategy issues. Check out his blog, Uncommon Wisdom, for the latest in communications business and technology development.

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