Google in the Enterprise
There is some debate as to whether Google is a vendor of Unified Communications, but that's the wrong question.
There is some debate as to whether Google is a vendor of Unified Communications, but that's the wrong question. The unified communications industry is generally what was previously known as the PBX industry. These vendors, and many new ones, evolved their solutions well beyond voice communications to include broader forms of real-time, IP-based communication, collaboration, and mobility.
Google doesn't fit the image of a unified communications vendor. It doesn't offer much in the way of physical products, doesn't have a strong enterprise account management brand, and doesn't directly offer dial-tone. Nor does Google make much of a splash at industry events like Enterprise Connect, Interop, or the UCSummit. Google doesn't fit the image of the current industry, and certainly not of where the industry came from. However, distinctions get a bit blurry if you look at where the industry is headed.
Consider the current buzzwords laced within the industry's press releases: collaboration, video, mobility, APIs, CEBP, XMPP, speech recognition, HTML5, location-awareness, VDI, social integration, consumerization, browser-based applications, and WebRTC. These terms, part of the collective UC vision and direction, also appear on Google's presumed list of priorities.
Google continues to steadily increase its enterprise foothold with real-time communication and collaboration tools as well as ongoing penetration of Android. It is building an impressive channel with enterprise chops while making inroads into government, education, and SMB accounts. The company has a market capitalization near Microsoft's and significantly larger than UC market share leaders Avaya and Cisco. Google was founded only some 15 years ago, yet most of us "Google" on a near daily basis.
Android reportedly now controls about 68% of the global smartphone market (2Q12, IDC). Apple's share dropped to about 17%, and Nokia, Microsoft, and RIM each count for less than 5%. That makes Android the 800-pound gorilla in smartphones. With its latest release known as Jellybean and its Asus co-branded Nexus7 tablet, Android now has a viable offering in the tablet space. Expect to see many new form factors, including units optimized for vertical sectors, to emerge later this year.
When the iPhone was released in 2007, Steve Jobs claimed it was "Five years ahead of its time." It seems he was right, as it took Android about that long to catch up, but the unique and compelling advantages of the iPhone are rapidly disappearing. More and more iPhone-exclusive apps are becoming available in Google's Play store. Even Siri, the digital personal assistant, can't get a word in against Android's new voice recognition capabilities. Jellybean has limited availability, but several partners have already committed to upcoming releases. Android's hardware partners include Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG, Motorola Mobility (now part of Google), Dell, Huawei, and many more.
Android also powers a variety of other devices, including Cisco's recently abandoned Cius tablet and the Avaya Desktop Video Device. It can be found in televisions, DVD players, laptops, e-book readers, appliances, even IP phones. Android also powers the TelyHD Skype device (if you prefer an alternative network, then consider the Biscotti device which utilizes the Google Talk network).
Google Voice isn't at all that it could be, and certainly not what many wanted (or feared). But it is something that continues to be highly disruptive and important. Google Voice best sits atop--rather than replaces--other services. Google Voice combined with, say, an obsolete Nortel PBX, could transform the system into a modern UC solution complete with unified messaging (with transcription), ring-anywhere, click-to-dial, ad-hoc conferencing, call recording, and a client for mobility. Outbound caller ID can be set to the same Google Voice number on the desktop computer, desktop phone, and mobile device.
Behind the calling features associated with Google Voice, there are two noteworthy features. Google has the ability to assign phone numbers throughout the US. They are immediately available, and users even get a choice in their selection. Also, Google Voice is one of the least expensive options available for outbound international calls from a mobile phone. These carrier-like features are already within the Google portfolio.
Google has several solutions for interactive video calls, but it is working to simplify and consolidate them. Google Talk offers the ability to promote IM to video calls within the web browser or on a mobile device. This is an increasingly common capability among UC clients. The service can be federated with other XMPP services. Just recently, Google announced that the video technology in Google Talk would be replaced with the Google Hangout technology used in its social network Google Plus.
Google Hangouts are an extraordinary feature or service. Google Hangouts support up to 10 participants in a multi-user video conference (plus two by audio only) with no specialized hardware (except a webcam). Hangouts are also supported on several smartphones and tablets. Google Hangouts does not support federation, but video communications are supported across organizational lines to any Google-ID.
Perhaps the most significant feature of Hangouts is the On Air option, which enables a private interactive video conference to be recorded and broadcast on YouTube--effectively tranforming a interactive conversation into one-way public media. The latest release of Hangouts now supports mobile clients with On Air. This equips the average user with the ability to host an HD video conversation with a small interactive group and broadcast it without any special tools, facilities, or specialized training.
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