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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Software World
Over the past few weeks I've met with companies that either recently entered the enterprise communications and collaboration market or are about to. The firms are quite diverse--some have a long and distinguished history in IT, albeit not in the communications sphere, while others are start-ups. They differ in business models, in how they bring their offerings to market and in the enterprise pain-points they aim to soothe.
Despite these differences, however, they share one vitally important attribute: Their DNA is software. For the established firms, it is the foundation upon which their reputations were built; for the newbies, software defines what they do and how they do it.
Now while it's most decidedly NOT a newsflash that communications is morphing from a hardware-centric to a software-centric business, these firms step that evolution up a notch, maybe two. For example:
* Google: Last week, Google announced on its WebRTC blog that "WebRTC is now live in Chrome version 23, which is now rolling out to the public. No flag needed, no special Chrome build required." Google has led the charge into WebRTC, which, in a nutshell, embeds real-time voice and video into browsers. While still very much a work in progress, WebRTC will deliver a heretofore unavailable level of integration, almost a synthesis, of real-time communications services and apps with the Web. It has major implications for contact centers, mobile apps, client-server architecture and all manner of desktop systems, apps and requirements. (For a list of No Jitter's posts on WebRTC click here.)
* SAP: For most of the past two decades, we've been trying to unify communications, computing and database services. First came CTI, which was--and remains--difficult and expensive. Now we talk about CEBP (communications enabled business processes), but we have yet to see if it can overcome CTI's limitations. SAP is taking different approach: A few years ago, it acquired a Finnish software-PBX company, which it then integrated into SAP's existing contact center software and services business. The net result: The integration between communications and SAP's contact-center database systems is baked in; the APIs, middleware hooks, etc., are already there.
* Twilio: A start-up that lives and breathes software; I'm sure they don't mind being called software zealots, although they use similarly reverential tones when talking about the Cloud. Twilio is offering a Cloud-based service built on its software platform that plugs into carrier networks on one side, app developers (upwards of 100,000 worldwide) on another side and Twilio's customers on a third side. Twilio claims that it can--and does--enable contact centers to do outbound and inbound campaigns more nimbly and more cost-effectively. Twilio's business model is based on customers paying for transport; Twilio created a software-platform, essentially a softswitch for the Cloud, as well as the APIs and middleware needed to run apps over and through it.
* Visage Mobile: Enterprise mobile meets Big Data; next-gen call accounting built from the ground up for a world in which mobile communications is ubiquitous, BYOD is the norm and, therefore, an environment in which mobile costs are higher, mobile equipment inventories are larger, and strategic and tactical planning and management for mobility are more complex. Visage Mobile creates a database that can be used to make sure the carrier's bills are right, that the terms of service are being met and that employee behavior and usage are compliant with the enterprise's policies.
Time will tell whether any or all of these firms find a pot of gold at the end of their enterprise C&C rainbow. But what's abundantly clear is that their entry marks a new milestone along the industry's migration from a hardware- to a software-centric business.
These companies make plenty of claims--faster, cheaper, more flexible communications and collaboration apps and services. And it's no surprise that at least two of the four--SAP and Twilio--are focusing on contact centers, which has long been a proving ground for new enterprise communications systems and services. We'll be covering these newcomers and how the incumbents respond on No Jitter and at Enterprise Connect 2013.