Unified communications will never happen. In fact, we’re further away today then we were five years ago. There will not be a replacement for the PSTN. So where does that leave the future of communications? Hiring lots of different milkshakes to build Younified communications solutions.
We’re no longer seeking a single milkshake
The development of new voice and video communication services has been based on the premise that any-to-any communications capability via universal, standards-based interoperability is critical. But the world has changed; any-to-any is no longer critical for communications services. We’re not going to hire a single communications network milkshake, we’re going to hire many milkshakes (Read Clayton Christensen if not familiar with hiring milkshakes), and, increasingly voice and video will be the milk inside the milkshake, a key function within a greater application.
We’re hiring multiple personal communications network enabling milkshakes
Do we hire Skype because of some promise of any-to-any interoperability or unified communications? No, Skype has closed, proprietary media, signaling and control protocols, and offers no direct connectivity with other communications services (putting aside gateway solutions for the moment). We hire Skype for many reasons but a key is that Skype enables us to easily form our own personal VoIP and video calling networks, and communicate across them with minimal perceived pain and cost. Providers that enable us to build personal communications networks, or add voice and video inside of other networked apps that we use, are the silent assassins of the former need for universal communications interoperability.
Combinations of personal networks are the new universal communications solution
If I want to talk or video with you, then I know we can do it on Skype. I’m not concerned that I can’t hire these Skype shakes for every use case or job – I’ll hire the best candidate for each job. You don’t want to Skype? Fine, how about a Google Hangout video shake. Or maybe we prefer a Tango shake? Or future HTML5, WebRTC and Node.js flavored personal communications network enabling milkshakes? Maybe a video interview via LinkedIn or a quick conversation via Facebook? How about we close our transaction with a phone call inside of Salesforce.com, and insert the recording into the transaction notes?
Key ingredients in personal communications network enabling milkshakes
Personal network enabling services include directory and presence functionality to enable users to build their own networks. Winning personal communications network enabling services will also leave one ingredient out: perceived pain. In environments of over-supply and attention scarcity, perceived pain is more important than perceived value. Want to know how relevant a communications solution will be? Is it easy to use with no perceived barriers to entry? Great, it has a chance. Now, run it through the network-building, directory and presence litmus test. Still kicking? It could be a winner. Not THE winner – those won’t exist – one of many winners, one of many personal communications network enabling solutions. Update: I didn’t originally mention the services and apps that will increasingly embed voice and video communications via solutions such as Phono and Twilio; those apps are another reason why communications is becoming increasingly distributed.
The future of communications
The value of the network is still proportionate to the number of nodes. But new communications services, along with ubiquitous broadband IP access, will increasingly enable us to each be our own personal supernodes. Supernodes that connect multiple disparate solutions as if they were one interconnected network, virtually creating a universal, interoperable, any-to-any network. We can therefore gain a multiplied Metcalfe effect of sorts. Unified communications? No, Younified Communications. Multiple communications solutions and networks, interconnected by you and me and the personal communications networks we build across the Internet fabric.