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Major Announcements Add To UC Momentum

It's been a busy few weeks for Unified Communications, with a string of major announcements. Two common threads were emphasized by these announcements. First, that UC is about "communications integrated to optimize business processes," our core definition of UC. Second, that UC will continue to be tied to the evolution of enterprise computing, including software architectures, cloud computing options, and new mobile device options.

Here's the string of announcements, in chronological order, from Polycom, Mitel, Cisco and Microsoft, that are pushing UC forward:

* Nov. 8: Polycom announces advancements in standards-based H.264 Scalable Video Coding to delivery high-definition (HD) video at about half the bandwidth of non-SVC solutions. Polycom emphasized that their Intelligent Core would connect to a wide range of previously installed video systems, to allow graceful evolution and upgrades.

Polycom also announced two major partnerships aimed at accelerating UC adoption: Certified integration of Polycom HDX telepresence systems and a family of communication endpoints with Microsoft Lync; and Broadsoft BroadCloud Video for service provider UC video offerings. Icing on the cake was Polycom's announcement that Polycom video applications will be embedded in the Android-based Samsung GALAXY Tab, signaling Polycom's intent to operate with partners' mobile platforms.

* Nov. 15: Mitel continued its leadership in desktop virtualization by adding support for VMware View to their existing virtualization offers with Sun virtualized desktop appliances. In addition, Mitel announced a new Mitel AnyWare cloud-based UC service that offers a complete business telephony service, including the Mitel IP Phone, for $34.99 per user per month. And, continuing the mobility trend, Mitel announced expanded support for their UC Communicator user client software on Android, BlackBerry PlayBook and Apple iPad devices.

* Nov. 15: Cisco announces "pervasive video," which provides a single call-control infrastructure for both video and voice using Cisco Unified Communications Manager, the Cisco IP-PBX platform. Cisco also announced high-quality video for WebEx Meeting Center (cloud-based conferencing service) including delivery of the user experience to Cisco Cius and Apple iPad tablet devices. Call center functionality was extended with application of the Cisco Quad workspace to the agent experience for better customer care and integration with social media, and with a new SocialMiner tool that enables companies to find and respond to customers and prospects through social media networks. Cisco also introduced virtualized desktop solutions built on Cisco Unified Communications Server (their network-based computing platform) and both VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop.

* Nov. 17: Microsoft announces availability of Microsoft Lync 2010. This is the next release of Office Communications Server 2007 and 2007 R2. Microsoft Lync 2010 provides tight integration and social networking features with all of the Microsoft business and collaboration software products including Exchange 2010 and Outlook 2010, Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010. Lync 2010 also expanded the features available for business communications, to make Lync 2010 even more acceptable as the primary enterprise communications system, whether with or instead of existing PBX and IP-PBX systems.

Further, the Lync 2010 announcement emphasized Lync 2010 capabilities for Communications-Enabled Business Processes (CEBP), backed up with numerous customer case studies developed during the extensive beta testing cycle. Lync 2010 includes HD Video functionality for desktop and mobile PC devices and with telepresence and other video endpoints provided by the extensive partner ecosystem. Lync 2010 will also be available in 2011 as part of Microsoft Office 365, the cloud-based version of the entire Microsoft office suite listed above, offering any mix of on-premise and cloud-based deployments.

Clearly, UC momentum is growing, as these announcements show increases in both mass (the number and breadth of the solutions) and the velocity (the pace of introductions and adoption) of UC solutions. The core trends are quite visible: Microsoft is pushing forward the integration of communications functions into business processes, both with its own Office business and collaboration applications and with a wide range of enterprise applications software packages. Cisco and Polycom are driving availability of video and HD telepresence.

Across the board, these announcements show solid support for the trends of cloud-based computing and communications, of mobile computing and communications platforms, and of desktop virtualization. Looks like another growth spurt is coming in UC adoption.