Hello, and welcome back to the Unified Communications blog.

While this site has been quiet for a while now, we felt it was time a good time to revitalize the discussion for the New Year.  It is a little over one year since we launched Microsoft’s UC platform, and in that year the UC market has been utterly transformed.

Back then, UC was regularly considered to be an extension of your network hardware, and VoIP was seen as the starting point for the UC conversion.  Today, even network hardware vendors are aggressively pursuing a software path, a distributed partner-centric model has emerged, and presence is increasingly regarded as the 21st century dial tone and the heart of UC.  Interest in UC has gone from nascent to full-blown, with Forrester reporting that 83% of enterprises in North American and Europe are piloting or deploying UC.  Supporting this assessment are our own customer surveys, which found that “UC” replaced “VoIP” as the #1 item on the IT department’s hit list over the last year.  And, the true sign of any hot market, every communications vendor is now using (and sometimes abusing) the lingo; from hardware lineups that carry a ubiquitous “unified” prefix, to UM systems marketed as UC, the vendor lexicon is abuzz with “unified”.

Why the dramatic change?

Today, economic uncertainty is accelerating adoption and interest in UC, one of the safest bets for businesses seeking to reduce costs and boost collaboration.  And, as organizations seek to manage capital outlays, the ability to extend the life of existing PBX investments and consolidate software infrastructure is driving further interest in Microsoft and our partners’ UC solutions.

But, the transformation is rooted at a much more foundational level – the global economy.  Business is more global and mobile than ever before. As a result, communication and collaboration demands have increased at an utterly astounding rate, and people consume more information in more places than ever before. At the same time, businesses – and the people who drive them – are struggling to keep pace with new requirements and technologies while improving the bottom line. Communications is the fuel of the new economy, and we are swimming in it. Some are drowning in it.

At the same time, technology advances are driving an industry shift from rigid network-bound systems to more flexible software-powered systems that work across any network. Just as the closed mainframe monoliths were transformed by the PC, software is transforming the closed corporate telephony monoliths.  Software innovation can now unify communications on the front end (at the PC, mobile phone and browser) and on the back end (in the data center or cloud) and give people and organizations better communications solutions with more flexibility and control at a lower total cost.  UC software is a lifeline for people downing in information overload – as well as those IT professionals trying to deliver and maintain half a dozen communications stovepipes, each with its own directory, client, and set of administration tools.  This is one reason why the rise of UC has been so rapid.

At Microsoft, we are embracing this transformation to provide a simpler communications experience within the applications people know and use every day, such as Office and SharePoint – or other line of business applications – from anywhere. 

Going forward you will hear more from me and others in the Microsoft UC group.  We’ll share our thoughts on the industry, new developments and milestones around our UC portfolio and partners, our perspective on current UC trends and topics, and updates on the business. Or, we may just post on the latest UC news that catches our attention.  But we also want this blog to be a forum for dialog with others in the UC ecosystem, so please let us know what’s on your mind.

Stay tuned, it’s an exciting and interesting time for UC.  I’m looking forward to the conversation.

Clint Patterson

Director of Communications