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Nancy has this insight via Simon Gwatkin of Mitel:
He mentioned that it's no wonder the industry is so confused. For the first 100+ plus years of telephony we talked about analog and everyone knew what it was. For 30 years we talked of TDM and everyone knew what it was. But just in the last 7 years (and this is after hundreds of other acronyms in the PBX, contact center, and other applications markets), we have tossed around first VoIP, then IP Telephony, IP Communications, Integrated Communications, and now Unified Communications, not to mention others such as Business Process Integration and Communications Enabled Business Processes. I'm tired just typing this.
I agree with some of this. I don't think VOIP or IP-telephony were particularly confusing terms; they came pretty quickly to mean essentially like-for-like replacement of TDM phone systems with IP-based phone systems. This was a useful definition if you remember where the industry was coming from. Getting to an IP-based system that actually could function as a replacement for TDM took a little while.
But I agree that UC is still a squishy term, and I think this squishiness exemplifies the fundamental change in the industry. In the old days, voice could only go between 2 (later, more than 2) telephones. Now voice is all over the place, and so its application is similarly amorphous.
The confusion is the description, at least for now.