IBM touts unification of consumer and business communication tools

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IBM touts unification of consumer and business communication tools

The lines between consumer and business users are blurring, according to IBM Unified Communications (UC) executive Bruce Morse.

At a demonstration of IBM’s Lotus Sametime software suite last month, Morse highlighted consumer-like capabilities of the enterprise UC suite, such as instant messaging and social networking groups.

“IM was created in the consumer market; we realised 10 years ago its potential for business,” said Morse, who is IBM’s Vice President of Unified Communications Software, Lotus Software and IBM Software Group.

“We do keep a very sharp eye on the consumer market,” he said. “Customer tools have, to an extent, driven business tools.”

Since its launch as a real-time collaboration suite in 1998, Sametime has been updated to include video chat, presence, broadcast communities, desktop sharing, and VoIP functionality.

Developed in partnership with some 400 vendors including Cisco, Nortel, NEC, Nokia and Microsoft, Sametime integrates with the Symbian Operating System and Windows Mobile to bring enterprise functions to mobile devices.

The software also integrates with public consumer networks such as Google, Yahoo, Jabber and AOL to allow users to communicate securely with external contacts.

Sametime is made available via Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and on-premise options. While Morse noted that growth in demand for SaaS currently is faster than that for on-premise software, he expects demand to shift in the coming years.

“We fully intend to be providing SaaS, [but] I think you’ll see the pendulum swing,” he told iTnews.

“I think SaaS is like what strategic outsourcing was like a couple of years ago,” he said.

“Many businesses ultimately will realise that they want to hold on to their own data and IT advantages.”

The UC market is expected to reach US$17 billion in worldwide revenue in 2011, growing at 38 percent compounded annually from 2007, according to research from IDC.

Adoption is expected to be driven by increasing travel costs and the preferences of younger workers, and led by businesses with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and collaboration demands such as those in financial services, insurance and healthcare industries.

Morse identified Microsoft as IBM’s primary competitor in the enterprise UC space, as both companies have been historically focussed on the enterprise desktop.

Networking and telecommunications companies such as Cisco, Avaya and Alcatel were also identified as potential competitors due to their advantages in the IP telephony space.

Meanwhile, IBM is overlooking Google as a threat in the enterprise space, despite the search giant’s success in the consumer market.

“Google is trying to penetrate the enterprise, but their business model basically is advertising,” Morse said.

“I’ll be interested to see how that will work in the enterprise market,” he said.

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