Microsoft, Skype and Facebook: The Three Amigos and Their Impact on Enterprise Communications
I can envision a future where companies no longer have PBXs as we currently know them on their premises or even as we currently know "cloud-based solutions."
You can bet that Google, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, ShoreTel and others are all wondering what Microsoft's purchase of Skype and Skype’s subsequent Facebook announcement mean to them. (A quick aside--it's interesting that I can now put Google and Avaya in the same sentence talking about the same technology because it shows just how quickly things can change). I think the more important questions are: What are large companies like Walmart, Goldman Sachs, United Airlines, Kohl's, etc. thinking of these alliances, and how will it affect their future communications decisions?
The various enterprises I've spoken with believe that the trend supercharged by Apple-- the consumerization of IT--will only increase moving forward. This means that the same technologies we increasingly rely on in our personal lives will become steadily more accessible in the workplace. Microsoft's purchase of Skype and the subsequent Facebook announcement will accelerate that trend as it pertains to unified communications. I believe that we are witnessing the rapid emergence of what is in essence, a new PSTN alternative in the guise of social networks, like Facebook and Groupon, and providers like Skype, Google and Baidu. This alternative will allow companies to extend unified communication consumerization to their voice architectures--both at the network fabric layer and at the device layer.
It will be interesting to see how the technology specifically evolves at the network fabric layer. I can envision a future where companies no longer have PBXs as we currently know them on their premises or even as we currently know "cloud-based solutions." Instead, a session border controller (SBC) will connect them to SIP trunks offered through Microsoft/Skype, which is then peered with the Facebook network but obtains its voice features from the Google cloud. This SBC will act as a SIP registrar for all their on-premise SIP devices (which at this point could mostly be tablets running SIP clients), and provides basic Class 5 feature functionality. Then the SBC could have additional features built in, such as call recording, or perhaps recording could happen "in the cloud." This combination of elements would radically change enterprise voice architectures as we know them.
Along these lines, the other question I mentioned is how will these new communications services and the consumerization trend affect traditional business communications devices? For Microsoft, Skype will likely be more closely integrated with Windows Phone 7 and other assets including Windows/Office, Lync and Xbox. The Facebook/Skype partnership has recently enabled users of the network to import news feeds, send instant messages (IMs), comment, and "like" all within the Skype platform. I can see all of this migrating to smartphone, tablet, and laptop-based soft clients that become the center of the user's communications universe. Each vendor device will interoperate with the different "PSTN-like" services being offered but will most likely have a "home" network on which it is more feature rich.
What do you think? I'd love to hear your feedback on these alliances and how you think they will affect both enterprise voice architectures and the overall communications industry.