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Will Google be a Unified Communications Provider?

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August 19, 2010

Will Google be a Unified Communications Provider?

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

Google has its eyes set on at least some forms of unified communications, say researchers at Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert). Android, 2Web Technologies, Marratech, GrandCentral and Gzimo5 acquisitions or initiatives are among the reasons for the prediction.

"Google will very likely become a major UCC participant in the coming years," Frost & Sullivan predicts. 

"Although Google (News - Alert) has not officially announced this strategy," says Dorota Oviedo, Frost & Sullivan industry analyst, "it is evident that, by continually adding new UCC applications to its portfolio and focusing on integrating them, the company is effectively entering the UCC market."

To date, Google has launched UCC products that could be a foundation, such as VoIP service Google Voice, a social media tool (Google Buzz), mobile services (Android (News - Alert)) and its abandoned online collaboration platform Google Wave. 

At present, available features are not sufficient to make Google the UCC suite of choice for majority of large enterprises, says Oviedo. Some will say Google never will be the suite of choice for enterprises. 

But the potential is there, she suggests.

More likely is adoption by small and mid-sized businesses. Low prices, flexibility and ease of use are key in those market segments.

"Until recently, Google has not been perceived by enterprise communication and collaboration vendors as serious competition," says Iwona Petruczynik, Frost & Sullivan research analyst, in an obvious understatement.

But Google is heading that way, and the firm can move fast, she suggests.

Google is expected to launch the enterprise version of its Google Voice service during late 2010. Google Apps, enhanced with Google Voice and several other consumer applications, will create a very cost-effective UCC package for businesses, Oviedo argues.

One can argue that "unified communications" is simply the latest iteration of "voice" communications in the enterprise space, with modified requirements in the consumer space. Of late, more suppliers have been emphasizing the "collaboration" part of the UCC value proposition, simply because visual communicatons (telepresence or video conferencing) have been showing growth. 

Like "network neutrality," nobody can completely agree on what UCC is. When current products simply are rebranded as "UCC," the reason for skepticism is clear. It is hard to separate UCC from the expected features any hosted or premises-based "phone system" offers. 

In that sense, at least, UCC is simply the IP version of older "phone" system functionality. That isn't to say it is unimportant. But when suppliers struggle so much to create new buzz around any important set of features or value, it sometimes is because users sense a bit of "overpromising."

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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