Of Dinosaurs and Ponzi Schemes
The question raised by Gartner's Nick Jones is whether unified communications, as positioned by the big vendors, is simply a big scheme aimed at keeping enterprise customers habituated to their platforms. It's a vital question. But it's also important to consider whether those vendors are incorporating new and functional tools as well.
Apparently, the elevator door closed on Nick's foot or he forgot his umbrella, since he seems to have been in a bad humor when he wrote the piece. In addition, he confesses that he is trying to collect anecdotes to back the positive answer to the question, “Is unified communications the biggest scam since Ponzi” that he will be defending at the firm's Cannes Symposium.
Since he agreed to back the affirmative, it is unlikely that he will go easy on UC. And he doesn't:
UC looks to me like an ill-assorted mix of technologies that vendors want to sell in a single bundle because it's convenient for them, rather than because they're what your employees actually need. UC is a dinosaur in a world of fast-moving little furry mammals; the leading edge of communication and collaboration is happening in the consumer space driven by companies like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Fring, Nimbuzz and dozens more.
For the next few years UC will be a battleground between mega-vendors like Microsoft and Cisco who want to suck you in to their technological whirlpool where you'll be trapped paying license fees for a decade.
The overstatement by Jones is the failure to acknowledge – again, probably intentionally – how clever the Microsofts and Ciscos of the world are. They aren't dinosaurs, which are characterized by a failure to adapt (and to know what to do when huge meteors hit).
Of course, these companies want companies to use their platforms – it's called trying to be successful – and are smart enough to develop or acquire the best elements of the Facebooks and Twitters of the world. Jones also is right that the big players will look at things from the perspective of capturing customers. But they also will work hard to borrow from the consumer sector.