I attended the UC Expo show last week in Olympia, and whilst there were some interesting companies and products, I felt slightly underwhelmed by the occasion. The Show was biased strongly towards end users or companies as opposed to a services provider. One thing that did spark my interest was a number of companies who fill niche markets in order to provide a truly collaborative environment. As an example, there was a company called Altigen who provide an iPhone client for Lync that does voice rather than just IM and LifeSize who provide a Video client for iPad and iPhone.
I understand why for example, Microsoft are not keen to provide full iDevice functionality on Lync, they have a range of Windows mobile devices that compete, I also understand why Cisco would want to question the intentions of Microsofts implementation of Skype, being how it is a closed standard for Video technology. The problem shifts from the vendor to the customer as it effectively reduces the device types the organisation can use or increases the complexity of implementation and support for business applications.
My issue with these niche solutions is that it makes the environment far more complex as each solution requires another server, which in turn must integrate with the existing environment. This is true even with the benefits of virtualisation available to us today. Some may say that Cisco are much further along the integration of voice, video, IM etc with the Jabber suite which sits on Call Manager to enable this functionality. Whilst this may be true, this is usually only relevant if you are building a greenfield site or are undertaking a major upgrade process. Usually Customers have a number of technologies currently working within the organisation, and enabling these technologies to work together collaboratively and seamlessly is a far more desired option than a rip and replace.
For me, the major vendors need to work harder to enable and support open standards that allow the introduction of new technologies and services into the business to leverage existing functionality and enable new functionality to the benefit of the business, only when this happens will the customer really benefit.