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'Back to the Future' for Computer Usage - This Time for Mobile Consumers

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'Back to the Future' for Computer Usage - This Time for Mobile Consumers

June 28, 2012
By Art Rosenberg

Interactive computer usage through “time-sharing” the CPU with online users dramatically changed the business use of computers from traditional “batch” processing in enterprise computing. I was reminded of this by a rough draft I wrote for the User’s Manual for Scientific Data System’s Sigma 7 that someone had archived online. In the early 1960’s, mainframe computers were so highly respected that large organizations showed them off to visitors in thier office buildings in premise-based, glass-lined rooms in the lobby. They were also located on the office premises for the convenience of employees/users who had to physically submit batch jobs with punched cards and pick up printout results.

The Sigma 7 system was designed for business organizations that still needed to support existing legacy “batch” processing applications, but also provided access to new interactive applications for remote online access as well. At that time, the public Internet and the Web, as we know it today, did not exist, so, the challenge was similar to what “cloud”-based applications and services are now doing to premise-based enterprise communications and business applications. What killed the time-sharing business was the arrival of the desktop PC, which eliminated the need to “share” any computer facilities. However, mobile smartphones and tablets are only going to increase the need for ‘virtualized” software.

Of course, those desktop computers (and portable laptops) learned to access information and applications on the Web, but were primarily designed for business users, rather than consumers. The big difference this time is that more customers/consumers can have direct access to online applications in the “cloud” from their personal mobile smartphones and tablets, rather than having to go through a call center agent or online from a desktop computer or laptop.

Mobile, Virtualized Applications and Information Move To “Clouds”

Just as the first step in providing interactive access to computer applications started with online wired access by authorized subscribers to a time-sharing system, today’s migration to UC-enabled business applications is moving to open, ”network-based “clouds” and “mobile apps.” This is opening the door to increased direct computer application usage by consumers and their interactions with business organizations, not only with online self-service applications, but also in communicating with contact center staffs.

The first step in “virtualizing” computer applications was aimed at desktop applications used by employees. This minimized IT support responsibilities for software applications used at wired desktops and portable laptops. However, as end users increasingly use wireless mobile devices, virtualization has to support applications designed for both specific applications and applications that exploit UC-enabled user interfaces (voice, visual). Online, self–services can also be exploited by business customers, who can easily “click-for-live assistance” via chat, voice, or video on demand. Such flexibility provides the basis for the next generation “UC Contact Centers” housed in private or hosted “clouds.”

 By moving all information to a ”cloud” environment, there not only will be significant cost savings, but also will enable greater integration of dynamic customer activity information to provide efficient and effective “contextual” interactions with customers. That applies to both automated, self-service contacts, as well as live assistance.

Don’t Fight The “Clouds” – Join Them!

Large organization CIOs face the big challenge of migrating from premise-based computer usage to moving information, communications, and user applications to the clouds. However, it doesn’t have to be done all at once for everything. Fortunately, cloud-based applications can be integrated with legacy premised-based applications, and can either be hosted and managed by third-party experts or developed on “private” or “hybrid” clouds.

Clearly, “cloud” applications can pay off for both desktop and mobile users. However, my perspective for implementation planning is to exploit the “cloud” infrastructure for those applications that are not adequately supported by legacy technology investments. That really points to the mobile users and the need to develop “mobile apps” that are flexible enough to support multimodal user interfaces and are UC-enabled to make contact with people.

Want to learn more about cloud communications? Then be sure to attend the Cloud Communications Expo, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct 2-5, in Austin, TX. The Cloud Communications Expo will address the growing need of businesses to integrate and leverage cloud based communications applications, process enhancement techniques, and network based communications interfaces and architectures. For more information on registering for the Cloud Communications Expo click here.

Stay in touch with everything happening at Cloud Communications Expo. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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