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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Future of Convergence

Everyone talks about Convergence as if it has already happened, we have had a single device acting as the Mobile and Fixed phone, I have even seen Operators show the ability to integrate the billing of Fixed and Mobile phones as if they were just one device (Very cool by the way!). another great example is how we are now able to integrate Voice, Video and Data over networks seamlessly, something which up until less than ten years ago seemed both overly expensive and unlikely given the complexity. last but not least, having a deskphone in your laptop, for those of you who recall your first softphone how odd was it to see the same configuration you had on a physical Hardware device now floating on your desk top as Software . In my view this is merely the beginning of Convergence the foundation steps to "True" Convergence are now n place, we need to step back and think about the future of convergence, there are Technology Vendors, Operators, Service Providers, Systems Integrators all heading to the same central point in the belief that Fixed and Mobile, Hardware and software as well as Voice and Data are all on a rapidly approaching collision course of True convergence. What I am more interested in at the moment is what will result from this collision; some say that we will see a few “mega” providers with integration of SI, SP, and Technology to meet the complete needs of the end user. We have even seen some of this development, Hardware vendors like Cisco and HP moving into the software space, Software companies like SAP and Google moving into the Hardware and Communications space respectively, all trying to anticipate the next trend and what they should develop or acquire to stay one step ahead of the curve. However with everything that we communicate with, store and share increasingly being positioned in and around the cloud we call the Web, are we approaching a new phase of convergence that the market players will have to adapt to yet again?

Is the Cloud the Next Integrator?

Communications, Media and Data solutions are increasingly device agnostic, OEM independent and User Specific (Hope I didn't lose too many people there!), this situation represents a significant evolution from applications traditionally being forced to align to a particular operating system or device manufacturer. With increasing trends driving open source platforms or the more sizable operating systems sharing tool kits for application development; communication, media and data are all increasingly hosted, rather than stored on the device and in so doing is providing increased flexibility for users to access these platforms through any means they choose.

The Empowerment of the End user has happened. However, how long will this remain? When will we all get branded, categorized and driven to a specific “Super Provider” of our “Cloud” requirements? Vendors like Cisco, Huawei and HP are clearly aiming to be all things to all people, likewise Google, SAP and Microsoft are equally confident that their own development will meet the needs of the end user whoever he or she may be, for me the jury is out it is clear the key looking ahead will be partner Ecosystems, who can establish a strong enough framework that embraces standardization whilst at the same time provides sufficient options for businesses and the end user to shape their own requirements.

Speaking with a number of people there seems to be a developing view that we are about to see a rapid consolidation of providers of technology services into the market place, personally I believe we are on the verge of another boom, we have had the Internet Boom, the Content Boom and I now foresee the “Personalized Integration” Boom. This will be a new space where providers help to shape the tools we use, the date we store and the people we communicate with as best suits us as the individual.

For example if I prefer to use Google’s Gmail with Microsoft’s IM, Norton’s Security, Avaya’s Softphone, Motorola’s Mobile Phone and my local Hosting provider, then I will be able to do so without the need to manage the interaction between all of these elements manually.

Seems pretty far out there right? I can accept that, but if I look at the Integration options we have available to us today across Voice and Data, Hardware with Software, Fixed and Mobile it is surely only a matter of time that when we reach ubiquitous networking. We have reached the next junction of Convergence, it is time to assess and identify the opportunities this extended path to Convergence can offer SI, SP and technology vendors. As for the rest of us we are finally at a point to redefine the : How, Where, When and What Devices/Tools/Applications we will work with in our daily working and social lives ...  So get involved and keep challenging businesses for what you want!

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