The trend to simplify Unified Communications (UC) pricing is continuing, which is a great thing for everyone involved. This trend was predictable, as suggested in the September 2007 BCR Magazine article, "De-Mystifying VOIP and UC Pricing Trends," which described the progression towards bundling of UC components such as conferencing, mobility, presence/IM, and mobility elements with VoIP software packages.
The trend to simplify Unified Communications (UC) pricing is continuing, which is a great thing for everyone involved. This trend was predictable, as suggested in the September 2007 BCR Magazine article, "De-Mystifying VOIP and UC Pricing Trends," which described the progression towards bundling of UC components such as conferencing, mobility, presence/IM, and mobility elements with VoIP software packages.The general theme is that the UC product suppliers are packaging their software into kits or bundles offered under per-user licensing, and a customer can choose how many of each kit to purchase to meet the needs of the various types of users in their Enterprise. Once the license is purchased, the enterprise IT/Communication team can roll out as much or as little of the functionality as they need. One benefit is a much simpler product selection, configuration, sales and purchasing process, since a choice need only be made between two, three or four bundles. Another major benefit is that the delivery of new features to the enterprise's users does not require a specific justification for each new software feature; rather the enterprise buys the "right" bundle for each job category and business process and then utilizes the features as appropriate.
It is also important to note that most of the bundles include the toolkits and APIs to link the UC software with the enterprise's business applications, so as to capture the high-ROI benefits of Unified Communications, i.e. "communications integrated to optimize business processes."
Here are four examples of this trend from four leading suppliers:
The trend was visible last year as Microsoft packaged their new Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 into just two price levels: Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition. Standard Edition includes IM, Presence, web conferencing, and peer-to-peer voice and video calling. Enterprise Edition is purchased in addition to Standard Edition and includes multi-party audio and video conferencing, speech applications, and enterprise telephony - both by integration to a large number of PBX systems and by direct gateway connections to the public networks. In essence, only two price points. IBM offers a similar approach with three editions of IBM Lotus Sametime: Sametime Entry offers encrypted IM, presence and integration to IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook; Sametime Standard includes web conferencing, peer-to-peer voice and video calling, PBX integration, and mobile clients; and Sametime Advanced (now in beta release) with persistent chat rooms, real-time community collaboration tools, instant screen sharing and location services. All of these can be enhanced with Sametime Unified Telephony.
Avaya took a similar approach last year by introducing four Unified Communications Editions. Essential Edition provides IP Telephony, 6-party conferencing, and Integration to IBM and Microsoft desktop clients. Standard Edition expands to support seamless mobility, multi-mode access and click to communicate from the Avaya one-X Desktop PC-based softphone. Professional Edition extends to include desktop and group video conferencing functions, as well as a speech-enabled communications interface. And Advanced Edition supports collaboration tools, such as multiple conferencing modes, conference scheduling, and integration with enterprise applications.
Cisco announced their new Cisco Unified Workspace Licensing (aka CUWL, and, yes, that's "cool"). The Standard Edition includes Presence, Mobility, either softphone (IP Communicator or Cisco Unified Personal Communicator including Video Advantage), voice messaging, and any one Cisco IP phone. The Professional Edition expands that list to include audio, video and web conferencing, a mobile phone client for selected cell phones and BlackBerry devices, unified messaging (with Exchange or Domino), and an unlimited number of IP Phones linked to the user license.
As mentioned, all four of these leading suppliers' offerings are licensed on a per user or per seat basis. In most cases the user license entitles the enterprise to use all the necessary server software, though the enterprise will still need to acquire and deploy the appropriate number of servers, operating systems, gateways and other prerequisite elements.
All this is good news. It is now much simpler for an enterprise to get started with UC and to justify the advanced applications, especially when those advanced applications are bundled into the most appropriate UC kit for each type of user. Do you see this the same way? Post your thoughts or send me a message.