To say that the whole category of unified communications has had a fractured history until this point would be kind. But every now and again, there is a confluence of events that gives cause for optimism.
This week bore witness to a series of announcements that all represented advancements in unified communications to one degree or another. First up, we have the announcement that Siemens will now embrace Polycom for video conferencing as part of its OpenScape unified communications platform. Polycom will replace Tandberg in the Siemens lineup in the wake of Cisco's acquisition of Tandberg. What's notable about that is that Session Initiation Protocols (SIP) and other unified communications protocols are sufficiently open to actually allow Siemens to do this.
The next most interesting thing related to unified communications came from IBM, which revamped its SameTime client to allow users to launch an online conference with the click of a button. Anybody who has had to set up an online conference knows how cumbersome this process can be, so it's nice to see somebody actually simplify something. Down the road, IBM is promising even bigger things in the form of a Project Vulcan effort that will unify our respective on-premise and cloud computing worlds, which is something that Cisco is already well on its way toward doing. In the nearer term, we also saw Shoretel partner with IBM to create what is probably the closest thing to a turnkey unified communications server yet.
Elsewhere, Avaya said it will leverage service-oriented architecture (SOA) technologies developed by Nortel to extend unified communications. That may not sound like much, but in reality the integration of unified communications inside enterprise applications is going to reinvent thousands of business processes over the coming decade. Of course, the concept of doing this has been around for years, but it's nice to see some of the major players finally getting around to doing something about it.
Finally, ViVu integrated its new online collaboration service with video conferencing sessions that are actually running across a Skype network
Just because we can do something doesn't mean we can do it well. That's been the story of unified communications as long as anybody can remember. Slowly but surely, however, we seem to be getting closer to the point where we can do unified communications well.