Unified communications and WebRTC are shifting the way the world does business bit by bit. Just a few years ago, it was all about UC sitting in the office, with a loose bundle of IM/presence, group chat, voice, and video that may or may not have worked seamlessly with the Fab Four of productivity – E-Mail, word processing, spreadsheets and PowerPoint -- with a couple of database applications wedged in on the side. The combination of seamless third-party service integration with the desktop along with better integration and availability of collaboration-based tools means everyone and everything can play in the cloud to a much more powerful degree.
The cloud paradigm has clearly changed how businesses and developers look at UC. Business like the cloud because everything can be available from anywhere, be it the home office desktop, mobile worker laptop or tablet, or a smartphone. Upfront capital costs, such as server hardware and licensing, along with recurring fees and staff time on maintenance go away, replaced by a simple monthly per-seat cost that scales to fit the needs of the organization.
With everyone and everything in the cloud, the need for integrating different services via APIs is paramount. People want their Salesforce.com and other CRM solutions to integrate with their UC platform seamlessly and painlessly. It should just work and these days putting together UC with other cloud services is much easier and out-of-the-box than back in the old days where it usually took programming and licensing to make UC work with a third-party service. If a popular third party service and a UC platform don't work together in 2016, there's something wrong with both!
Bringing UC into standard desktop applications is also a part of the cloud revolution. For example, Microsoft Skype messaging, voice, and video will be available from within any of the Microsoft Office productivity application in Windows 10; each function is a stand-alone app, so users don't have to run Skype as a separate program with the resulting overhead and switching between tasks.
But finer levels of integration are being brought to the world in the current crop of team collaboration services as represented by Slack. Within team collaboration services, all communication around topics is kept within individual threads -- Slack calls them "projects," but they can be discussions of anything. Each discussion can be shared by a team of people, with everyone getting all the IM, chat, conferencing, and files within the discussion automatically. Everything is stored online, so all the communications around a discussion are archived and available for search.
Expect to see voice and video start to play a more prominent role in team collaboration services this year, with individual conversations and group conference sessions attached to threads and the content indexed and searchable just like any other type of communication. UC will become truly "Unified" as all communications types are organized and searchable by discussion, rather than separate stovepipes that have to be individually access and searched as distinct entities.
True UC through team collaboration services is starting to happen already. If you use Google's InBox or any updated mobile email client, you already have an idea of how threads work in organizing communications. Slack and others are integrating all of your communications types into searchable, organized form, so you can clearly find all the communication around a particular topic and be able to find all relevant communications on the topic.
WebRTC's role in the true UC world is to provide standard, high-quality voice and video communication, as well as file sharing and group conferencing, as team communication services move forward in adding and integrating these services to an existing core. We're not quite at the point yet where "use your WebRTC standard browser" is a standard phrase, but it should be happening in the next 12 to 24 months.
During ITEXPO, the business technology event happening this week in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. numerous topics focused around WebRTC, its current state, use cases, and even discussions on the role APIs are playing today are taking place. If you’re in the areas head over and check it out.