We frequently talk about the communications industry being at a crossroads, and when I look at the lineup of keynote speakers at next week’s VoiceCon 2007 – all software companies – it’s apparent where we are headed.
But what does it mean that voice communications is becoming software based?
Given the brief history of computing it is easy to appreciate an analog that many of us have personally observed. I recall nostalgically the days of the dedicated Brother word processors – they kind of looked like typewriters but were digital and had the LCD displays. Technology had provided us with a better replacement for typewriters. Personal computers and word processing software took that basic input application and added a whole lot of value on top of it – people could store, view, edit multiple documents, share, put rights management, add pictures, and even search across all documents. Thus software, in its many forms has enabled powerful revolutions like the paper-less office, user generated content (blogs, wikis), and more. The value proposition has expanded from the original efficient input of information to information at your fingertips and the potential for further transformation is even greater today. In this case software innovation created the value – of course it allowed you to still type as you did on your typewriter but it did so much more. It would be hard to imagine a world without software and personal computers and how they power people’s lives, businesses, our society.
Now let’s come back to communications: Telephony systems are like typewriters – we need them, we use them, they serve us diligently. VoIP basically allowed legacy Telephony systems to be transformed into dedicated Word Processors – single function, providing a few more capabilities than their predecessors, not integrated into the rest of the tools an information worker and businesses need. Here again, software is ready to transform communications into a world where a whole lot of innovation and value is unleashed. Long held notions like only voice mode, presence-less or blind dialing, separate directories, no integration with everyday applications and business tools, are ready to be shattered thru the software transformation. The value will shift from talking to someone at a different location to communications fueling business productivity holistically.
I hope the picture of what software brings to communications is getting clearer. A question one might ask is: what about the network? Isn’t communications a network thing as claimed by some vendors?
First of all it is important to highlight the value of the network. The network enables packets to get from point A to point B. It is the plumbing that enables connectivity between applications running between endpoints. The network is a very, very important utility. But it is just that. Business value is created thru software that runs on the endpoints. An analogy might help here too: when billions of people use the internet everyday – what is bringing them there? Is it the software applications like MySpace, Windows Live Messenger, and YouTube or is it the fascination with the network?
I look forward to discussing this further with you next week in San Francisco. See you there.
- Gurdeep Singh PallCorporate Vice President – Unified Communications Group