Unified Communications Predictions for 2012
Look for Polycom to get acquired, Verizon to roll out VoLTE, and tablets to go beyond today's uses.
Tis the season for us industry prognosticators to put on our Karnak hats on, look into the crystal ball and take a stab at what we might see in 2012. So without further ado, here are my top predictions for 2012....
Telecollaboration becomes a product category. This is the coming together of video, conferencing and other tools to create a collaborative environment that is user driven. In some ways, this exists today but the experience is not driven by the user. Instead the UC solution or network determine what all users see. With Telecollaboration, the user would have complete control over this environment. Start-up Vidyo has been focused on this and Cisco is beginning to address this as well.
Polycom struggles (and then gets acquired) as Cisco turns up the heat in 2012. Video is becoming an increasingly more important part of unified communications. The price points on video are also starting to fall, as there are more video options available today than ever before. Over time, it will become harder for a stand-alone point product vendor like Polycom to compete, but the company's assets would be a great addition to a larger vendors suite. This rumor has been kicked around a few times now but I expect 2012 to be the year.
The repatriation holiday passes and Cisco, Microsoft and Google make big acquisitions. This is obviously a very controversial topic as there are strong arguments to be made for granting the holiday and not. The fact remains, without it, none of the big tech companies will repatriate any cash, instead leaving it sitting outside the country. In my opinion, a lowered amount, with the right caveats, would bring extra tax dollars into the country and let the big tech companies invest here instead of elsewhere.
Verizon leads the way with Voice over LTE in the back half of 2012. Of all the big wireless operators, Verizon needs to do VoLTE the most. VoLTE will allow the company to finally participate in international roaming and provide simultaneous voice and data services, so it makes sense for them to do push the market this way. One of the basic principles of LTE is that it’s all IP, so VoLTE is, in many ways is just VoIP traffic. So say goodbye to circuit switched calls and say hello to IP sessions in a mobile world. This transition will create another wave of growth for companies like Acme Packet, Broadsoft, Infoblox and F5 Networks.
Tablet computing becomes the next big thing. By tablet computing I don't mean using a tablet to check e-mail, browse the web or watch movies. That's not tablet computing, that's using a tablet to do stuff we could already do. Tablet computing is having developers make use of the features that are unique to a mobile device, like location information, accelerometers, compasses, a GPS, etc. to create new applications. We saw a few of these in 2011 but it will be big in 2012.
Specialty middleware solves some interoperability problems. If you have been following my postings over the past year, you'll know that I’m a firm believer that waiting for a world where all the UC vendors interoperate and are standards based is like waiting for the Chicago Cubs to win a World Series. It seems like a good idea, and it could happen, but in reality, it's a pipe dream. The solution to this problem is what I like to call "specialty middleware" such as VOSS, ALU's OpenTouch and Avaya ACE. These technologies can be used to solve specific interoperability challenges today and help customers deploy multivendor solutions. The other choice, which isn’t ideal, is to create CUCIAura, CUCIHiPath, CUCIOpenTouch, in addition to CUCILync and that's just too much CUCIness for me.
Recorded video grabs some headlines in 2012. If you mention video to corporate buyers, most of them think real time video collaboration. It lets us collaborate better, reduces travel costs and allows everyone on a Telepresence session to see my kittens! However, this is only part of the value that video can bring. Real time video does have a gap. What if you're not able to attend a video session? What if you're in Asia, do you really want to attend a video session at midnight? Recorded video has started to gain popularity to address things like replays of meetings for those who couldn't attend, CEO addresses, education and training. In addition, digital signage is starting to take off as well, so look for the term "corporate video" to mean more at the end of 2012 than it did at the start.
So that's it for me for predictions. This will likely be my last blog for 2011 (unless Cisco buys Avaya or something crazy) and on a personal note I want to thank all of you who regularly read, comment, agree or disagree with my opinions. 2011 was a big year of change for me as well. I married a wonderful lady, Christie White (I thought about streaming the wedding live but she would have none of that) and I started up my own research firm (ZK Research) so the continued support from everyone is greatly appreciated.
Special thanks to Eric Krapf for all the help over the year. Happy Holidays and "see" you in the New Year!