VoiceCon – Clear Signaling and No Jitter

by Dave Michels

This week is VoiceCon-SFO.

This event is fueling a number of upcoming posts. But let me just share a few observations.

First off, VoiceCon always exceeds my expectations. This year is no exception, but in unexpected ways. I’ve been Tweeting a bit about it, and I realized it was actually this show a year ago that I decided to try Twitter.

This is the smaller of the two VoiceCon Shows each year (Orlando in 6 months). There was some concern that it might be too small. But they decided to combine it with Enterprise 2.0 and attendance pretty much hit the higher guesses and poof: a real event.

The ironic surprise is that VoiceCon has been falsely criticized in the past of being too vendor focused. A sea of competitors and not enough customers/prospects. Well this year, the vendors didn’t show. It’s all customers. The missing vendors include:
-Nortel (excused)

Avaya, IBM, and Siemens seem to be having a great time. Though they aren’t the only ones. The exhibit hall was absolutely packed – I don’t recall dealing with crowds like that on an exhibit floor. Because they added in the Enterprise 2.0 exhibitors – there were one or two new types of interesting complementary solutions. Also intriguing to see Skype here (though they had absolutely nothing to say).

The economic situation is clearly felt. Fred Knight suggested a round of applause for attendees just for coming. The lunches are to-go sandwiches. Agenda topics include things like “Cost Containment and Control”. You can’t ignore the situation, but attendees are relaxed. Much less suits and ties than usual. There seems to be some general optimism that 2009 is nearly over.

The side conversations are always the real fun part. Nothing too surprising. Still no two people agree what “Unified Communications” means, but some consensus the term is useless. One might conclude presence has become more important than voice, email, or breathing.

One thing that struck me is how much the landscape has changed. This is an enterprise voice show and the topics are presence, cell phones, and business processes. The vendor names bandied about are Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Siemens, Skype, and Google. The one Keynote presenter I could have predicted a few years ago, Avaya, included a re-enactment of getting tech support and wanting to strangle the tech after finally reaching him. Where am I, Really?

Not everything is Bizzaro Voicecon – some things are quite predictable. The sessions are fun. The VP’s that are pitching ease of use still can’t do their own demos, and video conferencing for the masses is still a year away.

I got to participate in a panel about the future of the IP phone. This was fun. It had to do with an article I wrote that 2008 will be a record year for IP Phones. That piece hit a nerve with some folks – but created some interesting and healthy conversation. So far, 2009 appears to agree with me; but many folks do not. I intend to write up a follow-up piece on this topic – but let me clarify a few points:

  1. I prefer hard phones over soft phones
  2. I believe the voice portion of the communications puzzle will continue to decline
  3. I believe the conversation will continue to shift from endpoint to applications
  4. I don’t believe the phone will actually disappear in the near term – but will continue to decline in importance.
  5. I believe that people will stop paying more than $300 for a phone that does hold, transfer, and speaker no matter how nice the screen is.

Beyond that, I need to update the piece in a separate post. But it was fun playing the contrarian. The panel also included Alan Sulkin who believes analog will outlive SIP, Steve Leaden who shared some consulting projects that are de-emphasizing the phone, and Steve Hardy from Avaya who won’t rest until everyone has an expensive phone.

You can read more about the panel here (or here in Japanese).

Unfortunately, I need to depart for Boulder before the conference ends. I am particularly disappointed I won’t be able to attend Thursday’s session on the cloud’s role in communications.

All in all a decent week for communications. VoiceCon-SFO, I got T.38 fax working at home, I got my Google Wave invite, and I get a new Droid phone on Friday.

So that is it for now…and probably for this week at Pin Drop Soup – but here are a few links of stuff I wrote recently that weren’t posted here:

VoiceCon: PolyCom New Phones.
Android Anigma

Home Tech:
Home Audio with Squeezebox
Home Security with Combination Deadbolts