One way to conceptualize what is happening in today's market is that the old lines and legacy thinking are fading as technology changes. That's something that is always true: Technology inexorably changes; the vendors and users who accept that have all sorts of advantages over those who cling to the old ways.
It seems that today's changes have a lot to do with eliminating barriers. Consider the announcement this week that Microsoft and Nortel have expanded the Innovative Communications Alliance they formed last summer. Then, the two companies said that they would create IP-based products for large corporations and wireless and wireline phone companies that wish to serve them. This week, the two vendors said that they will extend ICA to give phone companies the tools to reach SMBs with hosted services.
This announcement is a good demonstration of what is being is eliminated. Say goodbye to the lines between different types of networks. The demarcations between fixed and mobile and between corporate and telecommunications networks are at different stages of fading away. Related to this are the breaching of barriers between voice, video and data-based applications. Indeed, that's what unified communications -- the goal of ICA -- is all about.
A third barrier that is being removed is the distinction between small and large businesses. The explosion of flexibility -- the ability to deploy robust services over the Internet via software-as-a-service and powerful hosted services -- means that small businesses don't have to settle for applications and services that are less creative, less customized or in other ways inferior to those used by enterprises.
Much of this is old hat. It's long been a fact of life that networks are collapsing and applications are migrating to the Web. However, it's important to note when companies such as Nortel and Microsoft set up shop upon the concept. It also suggests that planning executives would be well served to think about how changes in technology have altered the landscape before even listening to pitches from various vendors.