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One of the best-kept secrets in the unified communications (UC) world is the fact that from a UC standpoint, mobile clients have been a complete bust. But it's not hopeless. Vendors need to understand that the key to solving the mobile UC relevancy problem may be found in the old baseball adage: Hit 'em where they ain't.
One of the basic tenets of mobile app design is, 'Do a few things well.'
Sure, the sales presentation for every IP PBX and UC system includes the mandatory mobile UC demo, and every keynote at UCC conferences urges attendees to look at mobile UC demos. Gartner, IDC, Ovum and just about every other market analyst outfit touts the importance of mobility in a UC solution. In its 2013 Magic Quadrant, Gartner went so far as to identify UC mobility as one of the "five UC characteristics [that] will have an important effect on the success of a UC product and the satisfaction of users."
But have you ever seen anyone use mobile clients? Whether it's Cisco's Jabber for iPhone and Android, Avaya's one-X, Unify's OpenScape Mobile, NEC's Univerge 3C, ShoreTel's Mobility or Mitel's UC Advanced Mobile, people simply don't use these things. I'm reserving judgment on Microsoft's Lync because it hasn't been around long enough, but the clock is ticking on whether its mobile UC clients actually get used. There is no independent research on mobile UC client adoption, and mobile apps often do not include mechanisms to collect analytics on usage.
Why reinvent available mobile UC capabilities over needed additions?
Having spent more than five years studying the mobile UC market, conducting research surveys on both mobility and UC and working with dozens of clients on their mobility initiatives, I would hazard a very educated guess that the penetration of mobile UC clients among those who have desktop and laptop UC is well below 5%.
Mobile UC has been talked about so much that a collective mindset has grown that says, "With all the talk, it must be getting used by someone, even if I don't use it and I don't know anyone who does." Having listened to vendors tout "wishful ware" for the past several decades, this kind of grand illusion is not unexpected, but it's time to tell the emperor to get some clothes on.
Learn more about UC mobility issues
The truth about mobile UC&C uptake
Evaluating mobile UC capabilities and mobile integration limits
UC mobility: How the market is predicted to grow
Four steps to assess mobile collaboration technology
Does the failure of mobile UC clients in the enterprise mean that UC has no value in the mobile space? Absolutely not -- mobile users have embraced UC capabilities; they just don't call them UC. Before the appearance of official mobile UC clients, smartphones were already natively capable of doing a lot of what we call UC. You can select a contact and call, text, email and, in some cases, set up a video chat.
Collaboration and conferencing features hold keys to mobile UC value for enterprises
In a nutshell, that may be why mobile UC clients failed. UC vendors were trying to emulate the capabilities users already had. The secret for success in bringing mobility to UC might be the other "C" --collaboration -- which gets us back to the baseball analogy. Making phone calls and sending text and emails from a smartphone is "old hat" in the consumer space, so why bother doing it again?
Joining an audio conference or Web meeting from a mobile device can be a hassle, but it's a regular part of an enterprise user's life. Since conferencing is not part of a consumer's life, the consumer-focused mobile industry has little interest in it.
One of the basic tenets of mobile app design is, "Do a few things well." By focusing on the business need to make mobile conferences more productive for business users and laying off the phone, email and text capabilities, UC vendors might finally turn the corner on becoming relevant in mobility.