Real Time Communications Featured Article

Web-based Collaboration Tools Are Shaking Up Traditional UC

August 07, 2015

The enterprise telecommunications industry is a bit like a snow globe. Every decade or so, it gets shaken up wildly only to enter a period of settling down and stillness. Another decade passes, and the globe gets shaken up again. Now that voice over IP (VoIP) and unified communications (UC) are run-of-the-mill staples in most companies (as opposed to cutting-edge capabilities), the providers of enterprise communications solutions need to look for another edge to stand out. Industry experts say that “edge” is collaboration, and its vehicle is the Web.

The earliest UC installations were expensive, premise-based equipment and solutions, and it wasn’t always an easy sell to the company’s employees, according to Gina Narcisi writing for TechTarget.

“Enterprises purchase and install expensive, on-premises unified communications (UC) equipment, then IT pros typically cross their fingers and hope employees use the tools often enough to yield a decent return on investment,” she wrote. “This uncertainty has made it difficult for businesses to fully embrace UC and collaboration products. However, the humble Web browser is changing the landscape with a new breed of cloud-hosted, Web-based collaboration platforms that use browsers as their interfaces.”

Most of these new collaboration tools are powered by the WebRTC (Real-Time Communications) standard, and it means that users don’t have to power up a special application to collaborate, but instead can do it from inside the browser.  This use of Web-based collaboration tools by employees is truly shaking up the snow globe that is unified communications.

In the earliest days of UC, there were a few famous names that largely controlled the market. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for UC in 2008 had six names on it: Microsoft, Nortel, Alcatel-Lucent, IBM, Cisco, and Siemens Enterprise. Fast-forward to 2014, and only Microsoft and Cisco remained on that list, according to Dave Michels writing for No Jitter. Michels notes that the next “storm” is coming, and that it will be less about core UC and more about collaboration and innovation as today’s players look to stay in the game and new players hope for market entry by providing the marketplace with what it wants. Chances are good that the challenges will come from companies leveraging WebRTC for better, cheaper and easier browser-based collaboration tools.

“UC vendors no longer have a monopoly on enterprise communications; they face competition from companies in multiple industries that promise increased productivity via online collaboration,” wrote Michel. “Barriers such as manufacturing and distribution experience that once kept competitors away are disappearing. In some cases this know-how, expertise, and installed base are becoming anchors. New solutions that offer tremendous value are regularly appearing via direct Internet-delivered models.”

Enterprise telecom providers in the market today cannot rest on their laurels, but need to remain proactive about providing customers with the tools they require to work, communicate and collaborate in 2016, and it very probably will revolve around WebRTC.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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