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UC By and For the People

Avaya's Lou D'Ambrosio's keynote address really resonated with me when he discussed the "Democratization of UC." He discussed how UC should not be limited to the elite few but instead should be available to all workers. His point was clear - products like Cisco's telepresence have such a hefty price tag that they can only be used by companies and individuals that have the financial wherewithal to afford this type of solution, while Avaya's desktop video solutions are more affordable and more available to regular folk (he didn't quite use the term "unwashed masses"). Continuing on his democratization theme, D'Ambrosio also announced new Avaya solution packages that can provide UC for as little as 15 cents a day per employee. Avaya and others are working to provide inexpensive UC solutions and bundles that deliver faster ROI and make it easier for customers to get started in UC.

Avaya wasn't alone in discussing UC for the masses. Microsoft's Gurdeep Singh Pall also highlighted this theme (also using video and Cisco telepresence as an example), noting that Microsoft is putting video in the hands of more workers with high definition video to the desktop. While comparing Cisco's telepresence system with Microsoft's Roundtable and desktop video offerings isn't exactly a fair comparison, as these products have different purposes and are aimed at different use cases, it is true that Microsoft's approach makes video available to many more workers - again, democratizing UC, or video in this case. The point Singh Pall was trying to make in his presentation is that Microsoft's horizontal approach (as opposed to the vertical approach taken by Cisco and others) provides an open platform that can provide UC capabilities in a more vendor-independent, cost-effective manner.

Mike Rhodin of IBM also spoke about what I call "UC By and For the People" when he discussed "unlocking the power of the people" via collaboration and the forming of communities that create virtual work places. I've been following IBM's efforts in the social software/ social networking area, and have been very impressed with how the company is working to leverage information and knowledge that is in the hands (or heads) of workers, regardless of where they are located or where they fall in the food chain. By adding community-oriented functionality to Sametime, as well as capabilities such as persistent group chat, the ability to instantly share information, location services, and so on, IBM is extending its focus on collaboration and community. (Sidenote: IBM is one of the best users of these and other collaborative technologies internally, providing a great example of how companies can use these technologies to identify, find, and share the expertise and knowledge of individuals throughout the organization, while creating new communities or enhancing existing communities to make employees more productive.)

Noting that global warming impacts all of us, Cisco's Sue Bostrom, along with John Chambers and Al Gore via telepresence, also chimed in on the theme of UC By and For the People. Cisco touted "the network of ideas," noting that the best ideas can come from any one person, and that companies need open and secure platforms to enable anyone to participate in the sharing of knowledge throughout the organization. Similar to Rhodin's comments, Bostrom also mentioned the importance of collaboration and social networking, reiterating the theme of how productivity can be enhanced when people are given the tools to help them collaborate better. And when these collaborative tools help reduce carbon emissions by reducing travel, we all win.

UC is all about helping people do their jobs better, providing tools to help both the enterprise as a whole and workers individually. Unified Communications is bringing, in the immortal words of John Lennon, "Power to the People."