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Unified Communications Is A Pipe Dream

Bog RollYou know, I hear this term Unified Communications all the time. It recently came up as I saw the press release of Jajah and CallWave partnering up to “make global communications easier for people and businesses to communicate and collaborate.”

The theory of having all your communication come through one inbox is appealing, no doubt. GrandCentral was on the right track here before Google purchased them and they appear to have stagnated. Maybe they are doing stuff and we just can’t see yet, but when you roll out stuff like gangbusters and go radio silent after being acquired, it doesn’t sit well with users.

Even within the past 24 hours, I get a press release from a company that proclaims they have made all kinds of achievements in the Unified Communications space, bringing together the corporate PBX and the mobile phone. yawn

Anyone who understands the technology knows that unified communications is a pipe dream. Perhaps within a small subset of the possible communication methods, for example the corporate PBX and the corporate-issued mobile phone, it is possible. In the real world, where people actually communicate, it’s not. There are too many ways to communicate and too many parties unwilling to open their networks to allow some unaffiliated third party to create an environment to manage all their communication.

To date, I have not seen a single unified communications “solution”–a buzzword if I ever heard it–incorporate all of the following:

  • SMS (not just sending, but receiving)
  • Skype
  • IM–not just corporate IM, but all public network IM
  • SIP, both outgoing to random SIP URLs and incoming SIP calls
  • Email from multiple locations
  • Social Networking (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Jaiku)

Until it includes SMS on my mobile phone, which none of the solutions I’ve seen even attempt to deal with, it’s not truly unified. Until it includes Skype–a tool I am using more frequently–it’s not unified. Unless it includes a SIP URL that anyone with an open SIP client can reach, it’s not truly unified. Until it handles all my IM stuff, it’s not unified. Until I can get a unified view of all my email and social networking traffic, it’s not unified.

The truth is, there are so many ways to communicate, it’s downright mind boggling. That’s why, as far as I’m concerned, Unified Communications is nothing more than a meaningless marketing term. Then again, maybe I am missing some facts, or interpreting the term “Unified Communications” in a way that others are not? Feel free to set me straight in the comments.


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Parent, Writer, Podcaster, Coffee Achiever, VoIP/Telco Curious, C-List Information Security Celebrity, and Mobile Phone Connoisseur residing in Gig Harbor WA US. Sometimes NSFW, always a 49ers fan.