Top 10 UC Events of 2016
Innovation in every technology market ebbs and flows. In the UC industry, 2016 was a year of some big news events, with companies changing strategies, announcing new products, and making key acquisitions. Below are the 10 most notable things that happened in UC this year.
- Facebook makes its enterprise play. After announcing Facebook at Work in early 2015, the company finally released the production version of its business collaboration platform, officially named Workplace by Facebook. Facebook launched Workplace with a desktop and mobile app, and brought together collaboration and social by combining newsfeeds, intra- and inter-company groups, chat, messaging, video, reactions, translations, audio calling, and other features. Aggressive Workplace pricing has companies with more than 10,000 users paying a mere $1 per user. Early feedback has been more than positive, and Facebook appears to be racking up the customers. We'll see if Facebook can keep the momentum going in 2017.
- Internet of Things (IoT) and UC come together. Historically, IoT and UC have been separate markets, with the former focused on enabling machine-to-machine communications and the latter aimed at facilitating people-to-people communications. At a basic level, the coming together of UC and IoT supports people-to-machine interactions and enables streamlining of many processes. Looking further out, IoT-UC integration has the potential to bring about significant change in the way businesses deal with customers (for a good explanation, read Mitel CMO Wes Durow's No Jitter post, "5G, IoT, Big Data: Everything to Do with Customer Service"). I'm excited about the potential IoT has to evolve UC into its next phase, and I know I'm not the only one -- consider that the Innovation Showcase at Enterprise Connect 2017, coming March 27 to 30 in Orlando, Fla., is all about IoT, with a focus on solutions that can potentially impact enterprise communications and collaboration.
- Microsoft takes the covers off of Teams. Microsoft had made great strides in the UC market with Skype for Business, but had been missing a key piece of the larger puzzle -- that being a team collaboration tool. In October, Microsoft filled that hole when it announced the not-so-cleverly named Teams as part of the Office 365 suite. Will Microsoft kill off Slack and the other vendors in this space? Not everyone thinks so, as esteemed Ovum analyst Brian Riggs pointed out in his No Jitter post, "Playing Defense: Microsoft Teams to Protect Office 365 from Slack and Spark," Teams' linkage to Office 365 could be Microsoft's Achilles heel in this market. Microsoft will be a player, but only time will tell whether we view it as an innovator or a follower.
- Team collaboration dominates. Microsoft certainly wasn't the only UC player to jump into the team collaboration market this year. Among the others doing so are BroadSoft, with Team-One; Mitel, with MiTeam; Avaya's Zang, with Zang Spaces; and RingCentral re-launching Glip under its brand. While the flurry of activity certainly signals enterprise interest in team collaboration, it's also indicative of the consolidation we're likely to see over the next couple of years.
- Mitel buys Polycom... and then doesn't. Mitel CEO Rich McBee has been on a mission to roll up the UC industry through acquisitions. After months of speculation, in April the company finally announced it had landed a big fish -- Polycom. However, Siris Capital Group swooped in at the 11th hour, upped the offer, and took Polycom private... sending Mitel back the drawing board. However, the failed acquisition attempt is no indicator that Mitel doesn't value enterprise video. Just last week the company sold off its mobile business to Xura, in part to build a bigger war chest. It's my belief that Mitel will use this money to continue its UC shopping spree with one of the prime items being a video solution.
- Twilio goes public. Think communications platform as a service (CPaaS) isn't a real market? Think again. Red-hot Twilio went public in June, bringing awareness to a technology area previously known only to hard-core UC followers. Clearly, Wall Street likes the story; the company's market cap is about $2.5 billion today, despite quarterly revenue of about $65 million. With Twilio's success as a public company legitimizing CPaaS, we should see more activity in this space next year.
- Vonage buys Nexmo. About a month before Twilio's IPO, Vonage made its own noise in the CPaaS market when it acquired the number two vendor, Nexmo, for $230 million. The purchase is a key component of CEO Alan Masarek's plans to make Vonage the premier cloud communications vendor, and brings some unique capabilities as outlined in the No Jitter post, "CPaaS Oligarchy in the Making?"
- Cisco Spark is everywhere. At the end of 2015, most UC watchers knew Spark as Cisco's team collaboration tool. Since then, Cisco has evolved its strategy, and now pitches Spark as a cloud platform for collaboration. Spark, the application, is one way to use the Spark cloud, but the company now also offers a Spark calling service and has beefed up Spark's video capabilities, as well as partnering with Salesforce, simplifying the way people buy Spark, and making Spark a key piece of its physical meeting space strategy. (For a glimpse of what's coming relative to Spark and artificial intelligence, read "Cisco Siri-ous About Monica.")
- Microsoft acquires LinkedIn. Microsoft's cloud strategy involves gathering data across all of its cloud platforms and, with the help of the Cortana digital assistant, providing customers with insights they can use to continually transform their businesses. This $26.2 billion acquisition gives Microsoft the number one enterprise-focused social networking platform, not to mention a massive amount of data to bolster its "all Microsoft" cloud value proposition.
- Genesys acquires Interactive Intelligence. In the contact center world, the summer ended with a bang -- that being the Aug. 31 announcement from Genesys that it would be acquiring Interactive Intelligence for $1.4 billion. This move came about a month after private equity firm Hellman & Friedman took a big stake in Genesys. The merger has significant potential as it brings together the huge installed base that Genesys has with Interactive's more modernized cloud solutions.
One more event from 2016 bears mentioning, and that is the passing of longtime UC family member, Art Rosenberg. As Blair Pleasant, of UCStrategies, pointed out in her No Jitter post on his passing, Art was a true visionary and a great contributor to the UC industry. I never had a bad interaction with Art, and never heard a negative word about him... and so I'd like to wrap up my No Jitter year by congratulating Art on all that he accomplished in his career and thanking him for always being a class act.