Mistaking Messaging with UC (Unified Communications)

June 10, 2014

Messaging and Unified Communications have very little in common.

unified communications vs messaging

Often times, I find people mistaking between messaging and unified communications, using them interchangeably. These two “things” don’t differ only from their target market (consumers versus enterprises), but in many other ways.

I came from the UC domain, but I spent a lot of time in the past year looking at the OTT and messaging players – trying to figure out what they are doing and where they are headed. Two different worlds.

Unified Communications

Unified Communications have been with us for over a decade. It is boring as hell. It talks about looking at the interactions we have in the enterprise and how these should work in concert – having the ability to text chat, do voice calls, do video conferences, send email and whatnot.

Search Google images for Unified Communications and you get a view of the term UC in the middle, with many circles around it.

UC is all-encompassing.

The paradox here, is that the user is nowhere to be seen, and the result is all about interoperability and federation – the ability to connect multiple devices and networks together. What we are left with in the end is disparate networks and communication means, which is right about where we started before unified communications.

UC system sizes are abysmally small. They are at the 10’s of thousands of seats or endpoints (they don’t even talk about people or users). And they are growing at a snail’s pace.

Messaging

Try searching for messaging on Google images. You will be greeted with talking bubbles, with interactions, with conversations.

The funny thing here, is that messaging is now all about locking in the users to your system and then trying to monetize on them. If you don’t believe me, just see how Apple is making sure you can’t replace your iPhone with an Android.

Messaging is a boiling market. It changes on a daily basis, where the main KPI used is active users (=real people), and they are counted by the 100’s of millions per platform.

It used to be presence and instant messaging, moved to offering voice and video chat, then stickers. From there gaming and becoming fully fledged e-commerce platforms. The word de-jour now is ephemeral messaging, where the messages are never stored. Snapchat who now does voice and video chats as well started this trend. Just this week Path turned ephemeral as well.

Next up, we might have internet-less messaging, something that FireChat is starting.

Why is that important?

  • Making the mistake of comparing the two and extrapolating any future success of UC platforms based on the Messaging market is wrong, and many are doing these mistakes
  • Where Unified Communications is the an uptight enterprise world solution, messaging is the wild west of experimentation
  • WhatsApp was acquired for $19 Billion USD. Do you know of any enterprise UC vendor that was acquired for half that price?
  • In my view, BYOD will also end up being BYOM (Bring Your Own Messaging). And in that world, there’s no room for today’s UC vendors. The consumer market and its paradigms will eat them up alive the moment it will set its sights on the enterprise

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  1. I agree with you Tsahi and just would like to highlight that in my opinion there is a huge step missing before getting to the BYOM: the capability for enterprises to be able to run their own servers in order to protect their data. Even if Skype for example is very much used by businesses it’s still a huge sign of trust from IT departments (and companies themselves) to allow employees to use it to have confidential discussions and document sharing. Ideally an employee would be able to have his preferred user experience but hosted by the company and interworking with other companies’ employees as well as random individuals.

    1. Amandine,

      Messaging today has nothing to do with the “business”. There’s very little active use of messaging in business settings. You’ll either see Unified Communications (like Lync) or business social networks in some areas – but no real messaging.

      You can take the paradigm of messaging and add security and governance to it to fit an enterprise, but no one’s really doing that today – probably due to the frequent and dynamic changes we see in messaging in the last year or so.

      1. Agreed, hence saying that BYOM is not here yet and that I believe that until the security issue is fully solved it won’t be a reality.

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