Presence: What the System Knows, and What it Shows
It's not about "jellybeans" or color-coded bars; it's about the infrastructure knowing where you are and how to reach you.
Just before the New Year, I chatted with Eric Schoch of Cisco, who offered up some projections of the top trends for 2011 as he saw them. The list made sense--more video and cloud, less differentiation between work and personal communications, and blurred enterprise boundaries. But it was our discussion of presence that really went beyond the end-of-the-year-trend sort of conversation.
Eric started by predicting that presence would no longer be a separate application. This, on a purely technical level, is a significant notion--fundamentally, he said, presence would likely "become a feature or a function of something like [Cisco] Unified Communications Manager," i.e. just part of the platform. That in itself is welcome news; anytime you can reduce the number of servers in a deployment, it makes things more efficient.
But the more important part of this trend was Eric Schoch's prediction that presence would have increased functionality in terms of things like how calls are routed by particular devices. For example, if the system knows that your preferred video device is your tablet (Cius, of course), a video call would route there. "It should be presence-aware at a functional level," Eric said.
I touched on this idea in an Enterprise Connect newsletter not long ago--the notion that presence isn't about "jellybeans" or red/yellow/green bars next to a person's name in a desktop application; it's about the ability of the communications infrastructure to know where you are at all relevant times, and the ability for the presence infrastructure to provide that information, accurately, to the systems that control session routing. It's kind of a fancy term for call forwarding.
Presence indicators within application interfaces are interesting; presence-driven communications functionality could help realize the promise of Communications-Enabled Business Processes.