Lippis Report 186: UC SME Market Heats Up with New Announcements from Avaya and Siemens

The Unified Communications market has twisted and turned over the past eighteen months, thanks to mobile and cloud computing plus the huge uptick in web plus video collaboration. This market has recovered from the 2009/2010 downturn with a gusto as providers expand UC to include collaboration and mobile platforms while targeting the red hot Small- to Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) market that consist of some seven million employees. With only a third of SMEs having a communication strategy plus less than a quarter with a deployed UC solution, the SME market is huge and wide open. In this Lippis Report Research Note, we take a look at Avaya’s and Siemens’ new UC offering for the SME market from a traditional voice vendor perspective and explore non-traditional SME offerings from Apple, Google, Facebook, Cisco, Microsoft, et al.

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The UC market is no longer. It use to be that UC was defined as an integrated launch point for a wide range of communication services, such as real-time voice, voice-mail access, text messaging packages, etc. Then the stock market crashed and slowed down UC growth. During 2009 and 2010, mobile and cloud computing took off and fundamentally changed enterprise computing and communications. Companies took to video communications as a way to both cut travel and operational cost while improving productivity. Case in point, Camp Dress McKee, a worldwide player in water treatment design and build, consolidated their real estate offices, thanks to centralizing engineering and getting close to customer projects though outpost or smaller offices. High definition video conferencing was the enabler of this operational transformation.

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UC vendors took note and started changing their UC platforms to embrace BYOD or mobile end points, collaboration and video. The UC market is now a mUCC market for Mobile, Unified Communications and Collaboration. Yes, some are experimenting with cloud-based UC offerings, but with mixed results, so we defer on this topic for now. As with most other economic recoveries, small business usually leads the way. This time around is no different, and the mUCC vendor community is targeting this market segment with a vengeance.

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Note that some think that iPhones or Android devices are all that is needed in the SME. But this solution does not scale past a few employees, as business critical communications need reliability and quality. Try closing a deal over a mobile phone or transferring calls between employees or conducting group calls, and it becomes abundantly clear that a first-rate company needs a first-rate communications system that includes fixed, mobile and conference solutions.

While we use the “m” in mUCC to denote mobility, this is just a point of emphasis that mobility is now being integrated into the UCC environment, and it by no means is to be construed that fixed endpoints are not part of SME solution. For this Lippis Report Research Note, we focus on the new mUCC market for SME. To do so, we profile Avaya’s and Siemens’ latest launches.

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Avaya offers a few options for SME, such as the IP Office, which it has been busy consolidating multiple products from the Nortel acquisition. In addition, it recently announced the availability of Avaya Flare® Communicator for iPad as a download from the Apple App Store. Avaya Flare Communicator is a free software application for both iPad and its own Android-based Avaya Desktop Video Device (ADVD). Avaya Flare Communicator provides secure mUCC capabilities over Wi-fi and 3G networks.

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Avaya Flare Communicator for the iPad is enabled by the Avaya Aura® 6.1 UC architecture, which delivers integrated applications to a range of fixed and mobile devices, providing consistency between mobile and fixed endpoints. Some of its capabilities are integrated enterprise directory to easily launch IM, voice call or email. While being mobile, manage two simultaneous voice calls using the iPad, multi-tasking real time communications with internet access. Reduce mobile expenses by using the data channel and avoiding roaming charges while traveling across different cellular networks

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Siemens Enterprise Communications offers its all-in-one mUCC suite with recent updates to improve mobility, increasing business efficiency and lowering costs for SME. The upgrades to OpenScape Office and the HiPath 3000 voice platform include a new UC client for tablets, OpenScape Web Collaboration and a UC plug-in for Microsoft Outlook 2010. According to Siemens, these solutions help SMBs better serve their customers and reduce communications costs.

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OpenScape Office has been designed to support the increased use of smart phones and tablets, offering a new mobility UC client that extends desktop capabilities to mobile endpoints. In addition, OpenScape Web collaboration has been extended to OpenScape Office MX and LX plus mobile phones and tablets. Unique to Siemens is its embrace of virtualizing its mUCC applications. The
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From a user point of view, OpenScape Office is now equipped with a UC plug-in for Outlook 2010, and Open Directory Service that enables access to corporate directories for ease of access. Siemens has had great success with OpenScape Office, having seen it grown some 67% last year.

While we just provide a snapshot of Siemens and Avaya here, Cisco, ShoreTel, Mitel, Microsoft and others offer SME mUCC solutions too. Interestingly here is that Google, Apple Facebook and Microsoft are all positioning to play a larger role in the SME mUCC market. Google offers a suite of services that integrate across desktop and mobile devices leveraging Android, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Messenger, Google Voice, Gmail Google Video, and of course circles, et al. Microsoft has been challenged with Lynx as a voice platform, but it now owns Skype, and look for it to offer a mUCC suite for the SME. Facebook is a wild card as rumors circulate that it’s working on a Facebook OS for mobile devices that some project will offer a social mUCC platform.

Apple seems contempt to ride the BYOD trend into the enterprise market without packaging a SME mUCC solution. Apple continues to push the envelope and deliver many of the features promised by the UC vendors for years, such as FaceTime and Siri. The real opportunity for the traditional mUCC vendors is to embrace Apple’s iPad, iPhone and MAC, adding enterprise strength and scale to FaceTime, Siri, contacts, calendar, icloud, etc. Most of the mUCC vendors still view Apple as a consumer device and opt more often than not to develop on Android. That is a mistake.

The SME market is the huge opportunity for the mUCC vendors, but it’s also an opportunity for non-traditional players too, as only 25% of the market has decided upon its mUCC direction. Siemens and Avaya as well as many of the other vendors are all moving in the right direction to integrate mobility, video and collaboration. But some Big Data analytics may very well show all that is needed is enterprise integration plus scale to Apple and Google mobile endpoints on desktop and fixed point phones.

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