Will Google’s Android Affect Enterprise Unified Communications?

Google’s big announcement this week about it’s open-source mobile OS (Android”) Open Handset Alliance, is theoretically challenging Microsoft, Symbion, etc., about their role in mobile communications and business applications, as well as the business models that will control mobile service offerings. First, by going the open source route, it will help break down the traditional “walled gardens” of the carriers. Secondly, with Google’s well-established dominance of web-search and associated advertising revenues to monetize mobile information content, their approach will fit in nicely with new. multimodal “smart phones.” Couple that with enabling their offerings to be free, guess what service providers and subscribers will opt for!

So, how will that affect enterprise Unified Communications users?

As I have frequently stated in my Unified-View column, mobile business users are the ones who will get maximum benefit from the flexibility of UC because their contact modality will be constantly changing. Sometimes they will need a visual interface, sometimes they will need a hands-free/eyes-free speech interface (driving a car). More recently, with improved speech recognition as a convenient form of input, interactive interfaces can now be a more efficient combination of speech input, text input, and visual output (multimodal interface).

As I have also stated frequently, UC flexibility must support mobile device independence, and as business users start using mobile consumer services and devices that can support business applications, they will expect enterprise UC to support their mobile device of preference. Enterprise security issues can be software controlled with enterprise-provided software clients installed on those open devices to take care of any information or user communication access that is in the governance responsibility of the enterprise. Personal, consumer services (entertainment, social contacts, etc.) can still remain functionsl, even if the business features are shut down by an enterprise.

What this really mean, then, is that mobile devices will become the personalized choice and responsibility of business end users as long as the device operating system enables separate control over business information and communication activities from personal stuff. That kind of mobile security management technology is already available from a number of providers, so the concept just needs a proper operational environment in the form of multimodal devices and an open, mobile OS that supports it all.

The question now is, what impact will the Google offering have upon personalized, handheld mobile devices, and which combination of mobile device and mobile OS will end users go for? Some bloggers have made critical comments about the announcement claiming that that is all that it is at this point, an announcement. Some critics said similar things about Microsoft’s venture into UC with OCS 2007. However, at this point in the evolution of UC technology, we are looking for both long term direction, as well as short term availability of technology that will be both useful and future-proofed, not complete and perfect (especially if it is software).

So, what do you think will happen will mobile devices and services at this point in the UC enterprise evolution game? Will they follow the lead of the Web experience or continue with traditional enterprise telephony CPE thinking?

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