Research In Motion's co-CEO Jim Balsillie's luncheon address at the JP Morgan Technology Conference in Boston earlier this week, here reported upon in Unstrung, didn't exactly say anything new. But it certainly drove home the idea that smart vendors with lots of cash have bought into the concept of network convergence.
The familiar refrain is that combining Wi-Fi with cellular will enable one device to offer services that now are divided between mobile and fixed networks. The next logical step is the gradual elimination of the fixed phones. The report suggests that Balsillie "appeared" to take the view that this would happen in the enterprise.
Make no mistake: The smart money players in the telecommunications industry sees a sea change ahead, and they are working diligently to make sure that their companies are prepared. RIM -- owners of the BlackBerry -- has moved beyond its corporate core business during the past year with the introduction of two consumer devices, the Pearl and the Curve. The integration of Wi-Fi -- and probably WiMax down the road -- is a bookend maneuver that would make the company a far different entity than it was even a few months ago.
The progress clearly isn't smooth, however. For instance, consider this InformationWeek story about the introduction of the Nokia Intellisync Call Connect for Cisco at Interop this week. It is, according to the writer, the type of fixed mobile convergence (FMC) product that makes "IT managers salivate." However, Nokia is being forced to find a "complementary channel strategy." That's a fancy way of saying that they are scrambling because the major cellular carriers feel the system threatens their enterprise revenues and don't want to push it.
The reality is that the most threatened members of the food chain are the carriers, and they will resist change the most vigorously. That's to be expected. It's also to be expected that, in the final analysis, the realities of the marketplace will compel them to embrace new technology. Those realities will be a mix of cost (wireless is less expensive than cellular), efficiency (supporting an intelligently converged infrastructure makes more sense than reinventing the wheel on multiple networks), customer demand (either reduction of the number of devices or the number of bills) and others.