Business and Consumer Segments Increasingly Converge

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Interwise -- a company that provides voice, Web and video conferencing to enterprise clients -- recently released predictions for 2007. On one level, the predictions were interesting. They also were quite expected in that they essentially said that the business the company is in will thrive.


As we read the story, we began to think of how the Web deepens the link between consumer and business applications. What got us thinking was the realization that none of the business uses mentioned by Interwise would even be in play if a vibrant and growing consumer market didn't exist, and if that market didn't use the same hardware, software and networking companies that serve businesses.


Interwise, for instance, predicts increasing penetration of voice-based and Web conferencing. This will enable corporations to have "all hands" Web conferences that reach far deeper into the organization than in-person meetings or old-style teleconferences.


We can think of a number of other corporate applications -- such as podcasts and social networking -- that cut their teeth on the consumer side. The flow is in both directions. Smartphones, for instance, show signs of moving from the corporation to consumers.


The real differences between business and consumer applications are matters of degree and emphasis, not base technology. For instance, both corporations and private users have access to countless Web-based multimedia applications.


The differences between those used by the two camps are important, but not core. Video services aimed at consumers likely will be heavier on throughput (since an action movie is more demanding than a sales meeting), for example, while the business service is likely to more assiduously guard its corporate jewels with a higher level of security.


Of course, networks and equipment have long had dual uses. PCs are PCs, though some are optimized for business, some for consumers and some straddle the two worlds. The point is that the use by both businesses and consumers of the Internet protocol -- and in many cases the same physical network -- erodes the existing line further.


Throw in the fact that people are more technically savvy than just a few years ago -- and thus able and willing to use more sophisticated gear -- and you have an environment where the demarcation between the two segments is porous, if not nonexistent.