Michael Finneran
Michael F. Finneran, is President of dBrn Associates, Inc., a full service advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobility; services...
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Michael Finneran | February 04, 2016 |


Mobile & UC: Complements or Competitors?

Mobile & UC: Complements or Competitors? A lot of big things are going on in mobility, but all of them seem at cross-purposes with UC.

A lot of big things are going on in mobility, but all of them seem at cross-purposes with UC.

As we ramp up for Enterprise Connect 2016 coming March 7 to 10 in Orlando, Fla., I am girding myself for the wave of UC vendors that will once again be touting the marvels of mobility. However, for the life of me I can't understand why they would.

It's not that I don't agree with everything they have to say.

People love their mobile devices... check. The mobile user experience has shaped users' expectations for how technology products should work... check. The mobile market has been a wellspring of marvelous innovations, many of which were appropriated by the UC industry... check. Billions of dollars in investment value have been created, much of that in advertising revenues... check.

But what does any of that have to do with UC vendors?

The UC vendors are cranking out the same type of useless (and largely "unused") mobile clients that their customers continue to ignore. If anything, users are increasingly relying on their mobile phones to get their jobs done, and using that $300 lump of plastic called a desk phone as a paperweight. Given the value users place on the traditional desk phone, my inclination as a buyer would be to buy the cheapest one I could find and just make sure it has the ability to forward calls to my mobile!

Message Me

A lot of big things are going on in mobility, but all of them seem at cross-purposes with UC.

The use of text as a communications tool is exploding, and while the UC platforms all have texting capabilities, none of them interface with the mobile texting systems on which users depend. If I'm using Apple Messages, WhatsApp, or even traditional SMS (the one mobile texting option with which at least a few UC platforms can interface), why would I want to open a different app (my mobile UC client) so I can text with internal UC users? We'll text each other, but using Apple Messages, WhatsApp, or whatever mobile solution we have -- and there's always traditional SMS as the least common denominator.

Of course, if you've been smart enough to dump Windows PCs and gone to Macs, things get even better. Now you can link your iPhone, iPad, iMac, and MacBook to the same iCloud account and your texts show up on all of them. Not only that, but you can also configure your setup to send and receive SMS messages from your desktop or laptop, so long as your iPhone is within Bluetooth range of your iMac or MacBook. Apple also lets you make or receive mobile calls through your iMac or MacBook, but I've found that to be less than satisfactory.

Calling Over Wi-Fi
While mobile has won the texting battle hands down, it's also grabbing a bigger and bigger share of the business voice market. I'm not talking about that ill-conceived idea of using a mobile client that routes all of your incoming and outgoing calls through the PBX (tying up two trunks for the duration of the call), but just making your business call through the cellular network. In a BYOD environment with a fixed reimbursement (or no reimbursement) for business calls, you would get some serious pushback if mobile calls were still 50-plus cents per minute with a premium for long distance (my original cellular plan). Now the deal is X Gbytes of data with unlimited talk and text -- mobile calls are free!

We're also seeing mobile operators adopt voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi). We had seen premises-based Wi-Fi-only versions of this from the likes of SpectraLink and Vocera, and Wi-Fi/cellular versions with mostly transparent handoffs between the two from DiVitas and Agito (acquired by ShoreTel), but now the mobile operators are doing it for us with the help of the handset manufacturers.

Apple led the way by making VoWiFi a standard capability with the iPhone 6 and iOS 9- you just turn it on in the Phone tab under Settings (Settings -> Phone -> Wi-Fi Calling). Given the range of Android devices, you have to check the particular phone model to see if it supports VoWiFi.

In the U.S., VoWiFi works automatically on the AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile networks; in Canada, it works on the Bell and Rogers Wireless networks. And unlike the premises versions, this is fully integrated with the phone and there's no separate client -- it uses the native interface (i.e. dialer, contacts, etc.) and can seamlessly hand off calls between Wi-Fi and either voice over LTE or 2G/3G cellular services. It will work on any Wi-Fi network -- home or office -- with which your phone can associate.

Of course, the carriers don't give you a break on your calling charges, but if you're on a plan with unlimited talk and text, voice calls are free anyway. The one place this could be great is as an option for international roaming where calling charges can be exorbitant, but most operators limit it to the home country or charge their standard international roaming rates. Sounds like a crumby deal to me, but the operators are saying that the primary goal is to improve indoor coverage, and this way they can do it without paying for a full-blown distributed antenna system.

Beacons Beckon
So while the UC and now the workstream communication and collaboration (WCC) vendors like Cisco with Spark and Unify with Circuit are coming out with some interesting collaboration capabilities, for the most part they're falling behind in the primary communications stuff people are using most of the time. Worse still, they seem to be completely out of touch with the emerging mobile technologies like beacons, personal area networks, and crowdsourcing.

So while the UC guys are talking about how they can integrate mobile with their solutions, they've got it backwards. The users aren't interested in what they've got, the center of their focus is the mobile -- that's what we mean by "mobile first." If the UC and WCC vendors are going to have any impact on the mobile space, they have to change their perspectives.

Sorry fellas, but you're not the center of everyone's business communications universe any longer. For mobile users you've lost that position to the mobile phone. You've got to stop thinking of the mobile phone as an appendage on the UC platform, but how you can potentially integrate what you have to offer with what the users clearly wants to use.

Join me at Enterprise Connect, where I'll be chairing the Mobility track and discussing this and other critical mobility trends and technologies. In fact, If you haven't yet registered, then do so by next Friday, Feb. 12, and save an additional $200 off the early bird rate. All you need to do is use the code NJPOST, and register here. The discount code is only valid for Entire Event and Tue-Thu Conference passes, and represents a total savings of $700 off the onsite price! As an added bonus, register three or more attendees from your company for even bigger savings.

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