M5 is at the heart of these 5 conclusions from this years VoiceCon session and they are:
1-Virtualization is real
3-The Vendor landscape has changed tremendously
7-Subscription based licensing
8- Distributed workforces
(and arguably the most important) 10-VoiceCon is changing its name to Enterprise Connect
I can go into a long dissertation on each of these, but I'm not kidding that #10 is our biggest play - 5 years after we changed platforms, the market is starting to follow.
The show was busy and upbeat. Attendance and morale was up over a year ago. Now that the show is over, it's time for deep reflective thoughts about the industry, telecom, and unified communications.
Virtualization is real. Over the past few months, several vendors have claimed to crack the virtualization code and the operational and economic benefits are significant. Things are happening faster than I expected in this arena, and I don't think they will slow down. Just prior to VoiceCon, Mitel and Avaya announced virtualization solutions, and at VoiceCon Siemens and NEC Sphere joined the ranks. Virtualization is not about saving on hardware, it is the completion of a decade long convergence journey.
The vendor landscape has changed tremendously. For 20-30 years, the market was dominated by Nortel and Avaya (AT&T, Lucent, then Avaya). In the 90s, Cisco entered the market and soon took the leadership role. Now, it is dominated by several large players (though not all necessarily market share leaders). The dominating big companies (dancing gorillas) include Cisco, Avaya, IBM, Siemens, and Microsoft--when gorillas dance, onlookers get hurt. Could it get worse? yes, looks like Microsoft brought a date to the ball--HP. Though HP's intent isn't clear. Certainly helping Microsoft makes sense--the two have had a good run with PCs and Printers and both enjoy winning against Cisco. But how far does the Microsoft/HP FrontLine agreement go? And is HP going to be content with scraps (branch office gateway) of Microsoft's OCS strategy? HP has not closed on its 3Com acquisition, so its plans with 3Com's NBX are not known. However, it should be noted NBX could be revived and doesn't directly compete with OCS.
Subscription Based Licensing. I never even heard of this a few months ago, but it came up frequently at VoiceCon. The industry has moved to a software based model and with software comes recurring software assurance. Clouding the boundaries between hosted (rental) and ownership (purchase) is the subscription model where customers can purchase licenses on a subscription (monthly or annual) basis that combines right-to-use with software assurance. It is the latest experiment guaranteed to cause general confusion and give the CFO an ulcer.
Distributed Workforces: The world is flat and VoIP is a big reason why. Therefore it should be no surprise that so many VoiceCon attendees don't work or live anywhere near their main office. It was almost humorous, it seemed like 90% of the people I met worked out of home or a small branch office thousands of miles away from their "office".
Voice Innovation is not with Voice. Perhaps it is why the show is changing its name from VoiceCon to Enterprise Connect, but the reality is the major voice players weren't touting voice at all. The traditional things one might expect to learn at VoiceCon were not discussed. There were no new "traditional" phones launched, very little mention of HD Voice or wideband audio. No focus on switchboard consoles, nor major new voice mail enhancements. Few vendors had anything new with WiFi or DECT phones, or even operational improvements such as more intuitive ways to work a phone. All the innovation was in non voice related areas such as social media, presence, virtualization, and especially video.
I have mixed feelings about the upcoming name change of VoiceCon to Enterprise Connect. VoiceCon rolls off the tongue and clearly states that this show is centered on voice. But as mentioned above, the innovation and excitement around voice isn't with voice anymore. This may be true, but there are plenty of non-voice centric enterprise shows such as Enterprise 2.0 and Interop. Keeping voice as its linchpin kept VoiceCon unique.
Technologies change. I don't know how long the lifespan is of technologies such as Twitter, IM, or even email. But I am sure voice is here to stay and yes, the phones and devices will change, but the need will never fade. Voice has migrated from isolated proprietary systems to unified communications that represent convergence and integration with other applications and business processes. I understand the intent of changing to Enterprise Connect with its new tagline "Communications Transforming Business", but I fear losing voice as the central theme is dangerous. Will VoiceCon become an ERP or CRM show? Will FedEx be a Platinum sponsor next year?