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What's the Fuss Over Visual Voicemail?

Comverse, which provides the voice messaging and visual voicemail capabilities for the iPhone, released the results of market research conducted in the UK and Germany by Synovate regarding voicemail and related services. It seems that there is "strong user interest in new features for visual voicemail and other evolving voicemail-related capabilities and services."

According to a press release from Comverse, the study findings "confirm the strong attractiveness of visual voicemail. 75% of the respondents find visual voicemail somewhat-to-extremely interesting." The respondents like the fact that with visual voicemail they can view all voicemail messages at a glance in any order with full details about the message, and they also like the email-like interface and the ability to retrieve messages with one-click retrieval without having to dial in. The study also showed that users are interested in having a Converged Mailbox for all of their voicemails (home, mobile, office) with access from any device (mobile, fixed-line, PC). Well, duh! I've been a proponent of unified messaging and its capabilities for years, saying how these capabilities make our communications and messaging so much simpler.

I keep coming back to the same question - these capabilities have been around for years as part of unified messaging systems and services, so why the sudden interest in visual voicemail? Perhaps it's because Apple has made this capability basically a no-brainer. Customers do not have to purchase special equipment, subscribe to a different service, or pay extra money - visual voicemail is just part of the iPhone and is simple to use. And Apple's doing a heckuvajob marketing it. This is where unified messaging service providers and equipment vendors have failed - they were never able to create excitement around UM. It was always seen as a "nice to have" rather than a "need to have."

Over the past few years, we've seen capabilities that begin in the consumer market make their way to the enterprise market - IM, social networking, etc. Perhaps once consumers get their hands on visual voicemail, whether from Apple and the iPhone or other vendors that will follow suit, they will begin expecting these same types of capabilities in their enterprise voicemail solutions. Maybe once this happens, more and more companies will start evaluating some of the many unified messaging solutions available today. The price points are coming down, and the features are going up. Maybe it finally will be "the year of unified messaging."