Mobile UC Gets a Second Life
Opportunity stems from Apple's recent decision to open key elements of the iPhone dialer interface to VoIP providers.
My fellow UCStrategies team member, Michael Finneran, has long railed against how ineffectual the UC providers have been in coming up with mobile capabilities for their offerings. Frankly, I never really understood the problem until I read his recent assessment of Apple's decision to open up key elements of the iPhone dialer interface to VoIP providers.
As Michael discussed, Apple's decision is an important development that will change the equation in mobile UC and create a real short-term advantage for some of the UC suppliers. Over the years, Michael has correctly predicted the demise of WiMAX, the dimming prospects for Blackberry, the challenges of sending voice over Wi-Fi, and other such industry trends, challenges, and change. So when he says something big has happened with regard to mobile UC, I'm going to pay attention.
Now the entire UC analyst community makes reference to the importance of mobility in UC, but Michael is the only member of that group who addresses it first and foremost. In other words, Michael's view is centered on what's happening in the mobile market -- devices, applications, carrier services, pricing plans, Wi-Fi developments, management, security... you name it -- and secondarily on what's happening in UC. (That's probably why he's chair of the Mobility track at Enterprise Connect.)
Mobile UC & UX
What Michael has shown me is that you see the world in a new way if you look at it from a totally different angle -- like from the mobile UC user experience (UX) view. The UC vendors have talked about the importance of UX, but have failed to deliver an acceptable mobile UC experience for users. When it comes to mobile, UX is everything, so if you fail there, all else is pretty much irrelevant.
Apple has been the most successful mobile platform for enterprise users in North America because of the UX it delivers. However, Apple has historically gone to great lengths to control key elements of iOS devices, including the dialer function. This has left UC vendors with the unfortunate prospect of having to develop a separate dialer for placing calls through their iPhone clients, resulting in a severely degraded UX -- and virtually no user uptake.
Apple had just changed the rules, as Michael noted in his UCStrategies piece. While it didn't open up the dialer per se, it did open key APIs that will allow developers to make a VoIP or UC app behave just like a traditional voice call on an iPhone. Mobile UC clients should now be able to allow users to dial from the native directory, have VoIP/UC contacts as Favorites, and track calls and return calls in Recents... thus knocking down the major stumbling block for mobile UC.
As Michael put it, "Apple's iOS is king in enterprise mobility, and UC vendors finally have the opportunity to integrate it in a meaningful way while taking advantage of Apple's industry leading user experience."
Some vendors have gotten the inside track with Apple, including Cisco (via the "fast lane" partnership announced last year), Microsoft for Skype, and Slack, as CEO Chuck Robbins mentioned during his keynote at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference a few weeks back. We can assume their implementations of these new capabilities will be ready to go in conjunction with the release of iOS 10 this fall. All of a sudden, UC vendors have a way to deliver a mobile UC UX that's on par with the native iPhone experience.
For the UC vendors, this represents a major challenge. Being able to deliver a native iPhone experience changes the mobile UC experience in a way that will be apparent to every user. Whether this will finally result in mobility becoming a meaningful factor in UC remains to be seen, but this is a development to which UC vendors will have to react.
Thanks for helping us see the big picture, Michael.