Predictions for the Future of Unified Communications

I’m more excited than ever to be attending VoiceCon Orlando 2010 this year, because of the rapid pace of change we’re seeing across the industry. Innovation is accelerating, as more vendors and partners embrace software-powered communications, and as organizations worldwide adopt unified communications to meet their employees’ need to work from anywhere and collaborate with others around the globe.   Communications centered solely around the desk phone and built on hardware-based systems are quickly becoming a relic of the past. In fact, many of today’s PBXs belong in a museum; they are already artifacts of the past.

Today’s work-style doesn’t lend itself to a fixed place – or a fixed phone.  Already, the average worker spends less than 40 percent of his or her workday at their desk. Green initiatives, tele-work, outsourcing and streamlined facilities management have accelerated this trend, which is expected to continue in the years ahead. The laptop PC and the mobile phone are the de-facto devices for information workers. We are working where we want, which means communications must be able to find us, wherever we are, rather than the other way around. Even in this nomadic world a mobile phone is not sufficient – neither is it rich enough for collaborative work, nor are companies willing to reimburse upwards of $600 a year per employee for their mobile bill. That’s where the richness and portability of a multipurpose PC and the use of the economical and ubiquitous Internet comes in.

Three years ago at VoiceCon, we shared our vision to transform business communications from discrete technology silos to a unified communications platform built in software. Today, that vision has been realized, and we see the predictions we made then coming true.  The industry is adopting a software-centric approach.  

Our partners have helped us realize this vision. At VoiceCon this week, more than a dozen companies announced products and solutions designed to work with the next generation of our UC software, Communications Server ‘14’.  They announced new IP phones, survivable branch appliances, E911 solutions, call recording and accounting software. These partners join thousands of others embracing and building for our UC software. An open ecosystem – driven by competitive dynamics – creates an environment of rapid innovation and lower costs. The era of “mainframe economics” in communications is over.

Today, at VoiceCon, we’re demonstrating and talking about Communications Server ‘14’ for the first time anywhere.  We are also sharing our vision for the future of communications.  We see a future where communications is more open, costs less, and is easier to use – and it is always at your fingertips in a variety of applications.

In the next three years, we predict that UC will become the norm in business communications, more than half of VoIP calls at work will include more than just voice, and your communications client will enable UC with more than 1 billion people.

Three years from now, new applications written by corporate developers, system integrators and software vendors will be communications-enabled by default. We predict that three out of every four new business applications will include embedded communications.

I’m confident these predictions describe the future of unified communications.  Microsoft Communications Server ‘14’ (available in the second half of 2010) and our partners will usher in this new chapter and provide choice and value for customers.

Very early in my career I witnessed how the launch of Windows 3.0 in 1990 became a tipping point in mainframe to PC based computing transformation. I believe ‘14’ will be a similar event in the transformation of business communications.

Posted by Gurdeep Singh Pall
Corporate Vice President, Unified Communications Group