Apple's new software release, iOS 10, allows dialer access through an API. This combined with the rumors about a dual SIM iPhone 7 opens up a world of potential for VoIP and unified communications applications.
Allowing voice system providers access to the iOS API will enable cloud voice/unified communications offerings to exist in all mobile or mostly mobile configurations. It will allow the creation of completely new products, such as enterprise voice systems that do not assume desk sets. Expanded U.S. feature capability will be available on these continually smarter end devices. Suddenly, a new app may alter, in some fundamental manner, how business communications are accomplished, downloaded by the end user simply as an app. The downloaded app will not only be branded but will be the enterprise number of that enterprise employee.
Recently, Michael Finneran, president of dBrn Associates and regular No Jitter contributor, covered the news coming out of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, focusing on Apple's reinvention of mobile UC. He noted, "For UC suppliers, opening key APIs in the dial app provides the first real possibility to deliver a mobile UC experience of which users may actually take advantage."
In the last week, speculation over iPhone 7 features has begun focusing on the inclusion of a dual SIM card holder. Often this is presented as a way to switch easily to the best network when traveling between countries. However, being able to have two 10-digit phone numbers on one device and have each of these use the dialer while having their own UC infrastructure is exciting to me. It would end the business/personal battle on the end device. It could be both and behave differently for either a user's business or for his family activities. For a consultant or others with business relationships that require full participation in the client's services, two separate business personalities at one time could be a great thing.
Users will be able to bring their own device, use a second SIM card slot available on the iPhone 7 for their personal number, and have the corporate number available with all of its features from any service provider.
The big winners from this development will be the existing cloud-based voice/UC providers like 8x8 and RingCentral, who will no longer need the sell someone else's telephones. Cloud-focused providers like ShoreTel could potentially shorten deployment times and provide a richer user experience.
Microsoft may be the biggest initial and long-term winner, due to its sizeable U.S. market share. It has developed Office 365 to be closely integrated into iOS, to the point where Apple now offers it as a recommended app. I have been using Outlook on Office 365 for over a year, and being able to use Skype as my primary real-time communications platform would be a no brainer. Cisco certainly believes it will be able to take advantage of these capabilities and make the pivot to cloud-based communications. I do not personally know enough to comment further, but you can read more on Cisco's partnership with Apple here.
Mobile carriers could become dominant in UC. They have tried to offer some form of business voice system without great success, because they could not gain access to the dialer. Now they may choose to become UC providers. The mobile carriers have the network reliability and resilience to support enterprise UC systems. Having access to the device's dialer, these cloud-based offerings could propagate quickly. One could imagine two carrier UC systems on one device. Through the second SIM card, ATT, for example, could offer its service on a device with another SIM card from Verizon. The only question is whether they want to do this.
Hardware-based voice and UC providers such as Avaya and Mitel may be the losers in this development, along with voice specific carrier products such as T-1s and SIP trunks. The VARs who support location-based voice/UC may be the hardest hit of all.
Polycom, with its industry standard desk phones, dominant conference phones, and Microsoft integration, could be a beneficiary of Microsoft's continued market growth. It's currently litigated proposed purchase by Mitel provides a scenario that if completed will be the surviving piece.
Rumbling along underneath is the speed of development of applications that will be built and run on existing cloud infrastructure. Three-month developments are now the norm. By September 2016, with the release of iOS 10 and the iPhone 7, we should see apps ready that realize some of the potentials described here.
"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.