Parallel Lines: Cloudy forecast for UC


Oracle has been in the news recently with the acquisition of Sun. One of the prizes that comes with this purchase is Open Office.

This probably would have fitted in very well with Oracle’s Network Computer play of 10-or-more years ago – I remember visiting Oracle at the time to try and design in some networking components.

Lack of cheap high-speed connectivity is what brought Oracle’s efforts to a halt in the 1990s. Today the environment is completely different.

Today, however, I don’t see Oracle playing in the space. Instead the spotlight is on Google and what can be seen under the bright lights, understandably, bears no resemblance to what was there in Oracle’s day.

All the components are there: cheap connectivity which is getting faster and cheaper all the time, a massive cloud computing infrastructure that would have been unimaginable ten years ago and a whole bundle of applications that are easy to use and can be accessed from multiple platforms.

Google is poised to be a massive player in the unified communications market, at least in the consumer space and downstream probably for small business as well.

There are already many reasons why people use Google’s online facilities – Google Mail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Docs and Google Talk and of course Google the search engine.

When I log onto my iGoogle home page I can already access many features that would traditionally have been the domain of a business-based unified communications service.

From my Google Mail account I can send instant messages and have video conversations. I realise there are other services available where this can be done but none have the same potential for integration with other cloud based applications (Microsoft will probably disagree with me here).

Now add mobility. Despite being a clunky initial design, sales of the G1 phone have just hit one million units and are forecast by British based analyst Informa Telecoms and Media to overtake the iPhone by 2012.
And it is still early days for Android, the open source mobile operating system used by Google.

HTC has released a new Android-based smartphone, the Magic on Vodafone, that supports Google Mail, Google Talk, Google Maps, and synchronises with Google calendar and contact list.

Word has it Samsung is to follow the forthcoming i7500 Android phone with two more this year. The initial clunkiness will soon be long forgotten.

All this points to more and more users using Google unified communications services. This doesn’t mean to say I am tolling the death knell of other unified communications services. I am not. Business has needs that go beyond what Google offers as a basic service.

Better office tools (aka Microsoft Office), integration with other business services such as customer relationship management, operation behind secure company firewalls and so on.

These services are however becoming increasingly virtualised and hosted in the cloud, just like Google does and like Oracle wanted to do way back when I fitted into smaller-waist trousers.

As far as unified communications goes, I can see clearly now and the future is in the cloud.