Sunday, January 15, 2006

Some Aerial Shots of Niagara Falls

I was flying this morning and captured these shots of Niagara Fall's. You can tell it was cold by the icy mist cloud that is rising from the basin. It is a pretty amazing thing to see if you have never stood and listened to the thuderous roar the falls make.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Will Microsoft make Unified Messaging Mainstream in 2006?

I have long been a proponent of Unified Messaging (UM), the idea of having one central repository for fax, email and voicemail just makes sense. I actually deployed one of the first systems in Canada for a major Fortune 5 Tech company back in 95 - then the system was based on Rhetorex cards from then Octel (sinced purchased by Lucent/Avaya), and was integrated to many PBX and KSU's available. It was pretty robust even by todays standards, but carried a massive pricetag and only the geekiest of Telco VAR's were able to figure out how to install and maintain it. UM in general, never really took off in mainstream business due to the cost and the 'forklift' needed equip most modern offices. The CPE was just too high for the benefit, even though 90% of the people you would present the idea to, thought it was the 'bee's knee's".

The rise of the IP/PBX and Intel's purchase of Dialogic and the resulting IVR toolkits that were spawned by CTI's growth brought forth a genesis of products both ASP and CPE. This allowed a more financially palatable solution for some business and UM has gained some momentum in the last 6 years but still, it isn't mainstream, even though most new PBX sold today are IP based, the manufacturers are still hoping to bank on features and apply the same pricing models that they have been "bending over" businesses with for years. ie 15K for 20 hours of VM guys? it is just a hard drive....

The Opensource Asterisk PBX has supported Unified messaging basically since its inception and has been undergoing rapid growth, Tom Keating predicts that this is the year for Asterisk as he thinks all it needs is one major Fortune 5 to deploy Asterisk company wide and the green curtain will be pulled back revealing the 'puppetry' that PBX vendors have been displaying to the corporate world for so long.

But what about Microsoft? Where the hell have they been in this UM movement for say the past decade? every UM solutions provider today supports Exchange message integration, (some exclusively and only now M$ is adding UM features to Exchange 12. According to Exchange 12 (due out this year) has the following UM capability.

Essentially, users will be able to send and receive messages with a
fax or voice mail attachment that can be played or opened from any
client, be it Outlook, Outlook Web access or a mobile device, Ressler

"In addition, they will be able to use any regular telephone
to call into the Exchange environment and check their messages, which
will be read to them.

"They will also be able to respond with a voice mail
attachment, look at their calendar, speak to the system, as it includes
speech recognition capabilities, and have it transcribe a message
telling, for example, all those attending a meeting that you will be
late," Ressler said.

So can Microsoft force businesses to adopt UM? I guess it depends on how they are going to handle their fax and voice resources, that stuff is pretty expensive and last I checked they don't sell fax servers so they will have to integrate to one or many as well as a voice platform (most likely Dialogic) as they are pretty cozy with Intel. Where does this leave there channel? The same problem still exists, data guys don't get voice and voice guys don't get data, although this line is blurring quickly, who deploys this solution to the end user? it could get messy PBX integrations are not for the newbie.

When you throw in revolutions like Skype to the mix and an open API, you have to ask the question - Is server based communication solutions that M$ pushes really the future? Exchange could be replicated using P2P principles, a la' Microsoft and Groove... and result in practically free business communication and messaging solution, Skype? Peerio? regardless this should be a good year for VoIP, UM and result in even better value for the end user.