Avaya: Gaps still exist in unified communications

Mobility and limited telco reach are just some shortcomings with various unified communications approaches, says Avaya CTO.

SINGAPORE--Microsoft and Ericsson may be dabbling with unified communications but gaps in their approaches still exist, at least, according to Avaya's top technologist.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia recently on the sidelines of a technology seminar, Avaya global CTO Leung Mun Yuen noted that while Microsoft dominates the market for desktop PCs, it would be tough for the software giant to break into the mobile device market which is an important component of a unified communications strategy.

In July, Microsoft announced a partnership with Nortel Networks to develop unified communications products that let enterprises integrate all communications applications such as IP (Internet Protocol) telephony, instant messaging and e-mail, into a single platform. With the technology, workers can choose how and on which devices they wish to be contacted, and at what time of the day.

However, Leung said, while Microsoft's strategy of integrating communications into its business software may work on the desktop, the software vendor could be missing out on the mobility picture. This is because software on mobile devices still hails from a different set of players--one that may not include Microsoft, he said.

For example, he noted that Symbian still dominates the smartphone operating system market today. Despite Microsoft's market gains with Windows Mobile in recent years, Leung is confident that Symbian will continue to lead the smartphone market five years on.

"And there is also a whole bunch of people with BlackBerry devices too. I don't see RIM (Research in Motion) going away that fast," he added. "As a company, if you move to a single Microsoft platform, then what's going to happen to your other [non-Microsoft] devices?"

"To say that your entire collaboration toolset will come from one [platform] vendor is tough. The market is going to be made up of multiple vendors," he said.

IMS may not be it, either
Another market player Ericsson, approaches unified communications through its IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) portfolio. IMS is essentially a framework--wrapped with quality of service (QoS) and security assurances--for offering voice over IP (VoIP), multimedia services, as well as business applications that transcend fixed and mobile networks.

But IMS services are mainly offered through telecoms operators and the lack of global carriers that are able to deliver a suite of IMS services across international borders to a single enterprise, could hinder the technology's adoption, Leung noted.

"Our customers are saying that they need an enterprise-wide solution," he said. "If their customers call them from Singapore and the United States, they must be able to direct the calls to India."

"To optimize the enterprise in a global manner is different from just taking advantage of a carrier's network, unless the carrier is really global," he added. "Also, there's the question of how much [carriers will] charge you."

During Leung's presentation at the seminar, he gave his take on the IP telephony market. According to IDC, one out of four telephony lines shipped in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, in the third quarter of 2005 were IP-based. Asian countries that experienced the strongest uptake of IP telephony tools during that period were Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Taiwan.

However, Leung does not expect businesses to replace existing telephony systems with a pure-IP infrastructure. Most would continue to have a hybrid of both, since investments have already been made in traditional phone networks, he noted.

"What businesses want is the value that IP telephony brings, such as the ability to network multiple systems and have multiple communications services," he said. "The end-point, such as a cellphone, can still be based on [traditional telephony]."