VoiceCon MCO A Rejuvenation

by Dave Michels

I just got back from the Voicecon conference in Orlando. I wasn’t sure I wanted to attend. Six months ago, I went to Voicecon SFO, and really how much could change? Plus, the recession and all, I figured there wouldn’t be much in announcements or attendees. But Blair Pleasant of UCStrategies convinced me to attend, and since I missed ITExpo, I opted to go for it. And I am glad I did. It was a great event. As proof, I offer the fact that not once in three days did I even turn on my Hotel TV.

In fact, the best way to explain it was a rejuvenation of telecom for me. Lately, it has been a mystery to me why I even got into telecom. Perhaps it is the economy, perhaps it is the vendors I work with, perhaps the joys associated with running a small business– but telecom became a drag. I’ve been feeling (and blogging) that the PBX technology is stagnant, the vendors myopic, the industry moving far too slowly, the pricing models ridiculous, and huge gaping holes in the value remaining unaddressed. Why shlepp across the country in a recession to hear the same old thing?

When It Gets Darkest, the Stars Come Out

It wasn’t the same old thing. I rediscovered evidence of intelligent life in this industry. It was great catching up with an old college friend at Avaya. I also caught up with some old colleagues long lost scattered around the show floor. I met some great people, they were everywhere – sessions, lunches, even the hotel hot tub. I had some great conversations with some manufacturers; some great surprises. I found some new companies on to great ideas and some old companies (long dismissed) on to new great ideas. Some of my conversations really surprised me, I enjoyed great conversations with vendors normally off my radar like Motorola, Cisco, and Siemens. I also had some great conversations with companies I closely follow like Digium and Mitel. A few companies fell of my “interesting list”, but many more were added to it.

May You Live in Interesting Times

I have lots of “interesting” things I intend to blog about over the next few months. I think the PBX industry is going to change dramatically over the next five years – more than ever before. All the prior changes have been about the technology – this time around it is about roles as multiple industries collide. But there are also some interesting stories around specific companies or products. I intend to blog about Broadcom, Cisco, Mitel, Digium, Aastra, Siemens, Polycom, Motorola, Microsoft, and others. Of course, there is also the economics – the industry has moved from selling sizzle to reducing pain – an aspirin economy; and there is going to be a lot of shake-out. By the way, the industry in question is not the “Telecom industry”, that industry is on hiatus. The industry of which I speak is the “UC industry”. A name I loathe and don’t expect to last – but a convenient temporary handle for us to describe this period of transition.

VoiceCon was just a few days – nothing magical happened – the ideas, people, and products were all around before the show. But for me it provided a crystallization and validation. I read articles and blogs every day, but when you travel from keynote, to session, to booth and the same themes emerge, it is different. The themes get turned into conclusions which get tested and revised in interesting conversations.

It was a great show. The organizers did an excellent job. The venue was ideal (Gaylord Palms is really the best place in Orlando for conferences). The people were smart. Having a vacation just before the show I am sure also helped.