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VoiceCon Orlando 2010: My Top Ten List

Wow--it's back--the energy, the promise, the customers. VoiceCon Orlando 2010 was a happening place, and it was clear that we've weathered the worst of the storm and are returning to somewhat "normal" conditions. The vendors and exhibitors I spoke with raved about the floor traffic, while the session rooms were packed.1. Demos--In the keynotes, on the show floor, during briefings--there are lots of new and exciting UC applications and products that we have to look forward to. And we all breathed a sigh of relief that IBM's demo worked this time! My favorite demo was Avaya's web.alive, showing real time interactive interaction in an immersive Internet environment (similar to Second Life) with special audio (based on Nortel's Diamondware). While not as cool as the web.alive demo, Brett Shockley did an impressive demo with Kevin Kennedy showing contextual communications, document sharing on various devices, ease of conferencing, etc., showing that SIP makes it easy to bring people, documents together.

Cisco also had some great demos, but those of us who attended Cisco's Collaboration Summit had already seen demos of these capabilities. Cisco showed how it's integrating social software and customer service--and I've long believed that social software (twitter, Facebook, etc.) will have a big impact on customer service.

2. And speaking of demos and social software, it was clear that social software integrated with UC is becoming a reality. All I can say is it's about time. Most of the keynotes highlighted social software capabilities and/or integration of the vendors' UC capabilities with public or enterprise social software.

Siemens Enterprise Communications introduced OpenScape Fusion, which offers packaged integration of social media with UC. In the keynote demo, Becky Davis showed how easy it is to add real-time communication information from twitter, contact information from LinkedIn, and location information from Google Latitude. For customer service applications, tweets can be sent to contact center queues and agents who can best handle the request. Contact center agents can have a "social pad" on their agent desktop that displays tweet that came into agent desktop based on key words and phrases. And congratulations to Siemens for receiving Best of VoiceCon for its OpenScape Communications Server.

3. New phone devices. Alcatel-Lucent introduced a sleek new "smart desk phone" called My IC Phone, providing a smartphone experience, desk phone reliability, and application Pod openness, while supporting the development of mashups, combining communications and web applications. ALU also announced a new developer portal called the AAPP Factory for developers. Cisco also introduced a new phone device, which lets users view shared desktop content, video, etc. on the phone screen, and can even plug in a flip video via the USB port and share video on the phone screen--how cool is that?

4. Lots of new announcements: While too numerous to include them all, some of the new announcements that got my attention include NET's UX Series "Survivable Branch Appliance" for Microsoft Communications Server 14; ADTRAN's NetVanta Business Application Server and the company's focus on helping channel partners develop custom applications around CEBP; and Dimension Data's Adoption Management Program turnkey solution that accelerates end-user adoption of UC, TelePresence and IP telephony.

5. Microsoft's Wave 14 was formally announced as Communications Server 14. If you didn't think Microsoft was serious about voice communications before, you better believe it now. As Gurdeep Singh Pall mentioned in his keynote, "When you're ready to move to completely rationalized UC infrastructure, you can do so. Communications Server 14 can work with your PBX and you don't need to get rid of your PBXs, but when you're ready to turn off the lights on your PBX, this system will be ready to take over." In addition, Microsoft added some new phone devices, including some from Aastra that look much more user friendly than the initial OCS devices.

6. Something for the little guys--IBM announced several partnerships with telephony vendors for its Lotus Foundations, a true appliance for SMBs. NEC and ShoreTel provided demos at their booths, showing how their PBXs can be integrated into this environment, while Broadsoft touted its cloud-based offering with Foundations (Mitel, which did not have a booth at the event, also integrates with Lotus Foundations).

7. Best line of the conference: Avaya's Phil Edholm: "If you can't be with the device you love, love the device you're with." First runner up: Alcatel-Lucent's Jack Jachner (in response to Microsoft and IBM discussing their UC offerings): "If you're going to choose a communication solution, choose it from a communication vendor." Second runner up: Microsoft's Gurdeep Singh Pall and Moz Hussein, noting "UC in the future will be like a belly button--everyone will have it and you don't need to see it, but some people want to show it off."

8. Lots of great sessions--while I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to attend many of the sessions, the ones I did attend were lively and interesting, and of course the UC interoperability "discussions" will be remembered for a long time. I thought IBM's Bruce Morse made an excellent point when he said, "We have to focus on interoperability and can't wait for standards." There was also good UC user panel, which highlighted some of the challenges companies are facing and how they're overcoming them.

9. The new name for VoiceCon--Enterprise Connect. I think it works well and is relatively future-proof.

10. And the best part of VoiceCon--Jim Burton and UCStrategies' wine tasting event, comparing French and Californian wines. IMHO, California wins again.

While I'm sad to say goodbye to VoiceCon, I'm eagerly looking forward to the next Enterprise Connect.