On Cartoons #2: Software / Services. Desktop and centre

Hugh drew this, and  Steve Clayton talks about it on his blog. I was going to post something about it here, but then I found myself saying something on an internal discussion (about when our Unified Communications offering competes with Cisco and when we co-operate). It was better than the post I had in mind, so I've adapted that here...

I have used the same theory for about 15 years and I’m not wiling to give it up yet.  IT companies (I suppose I should say ICT) companies are either Primarily desktop or Primarily datacenter.  Very rarely are they entirely one of these, but they can’t be equally both.  Is the client there to exploit a great service ? Or is the service there to facilitate a great client ? Sometimes the best customer experience will take the client from one company and service from another and make them work together. Where competitors end up cooperating (so called Coopertition) it's driven by that demand from customers. The "big ticket" items are centre/infrastructure ones; "law of big numbers" items are the desktop/client ones. But for a lot of organizations, the desktop is where business happens.

When I started saying this in the 90’s IBM and Novell (say) were about the centre (being mainframe and server companies they couldn’t be anything else), and Microsoft, Word Perfect, Lotus were about the desktop.  And after I the stuff I've said about phones and UC lately, I've never met a PBX vendor who said “We’re in the phones business – the PBX is just there to serve the phone” - so  PBXs are the new mainframes and desktop phone has become an evolutionary dead end - no better at helping business to happen at the desktop than they were 20 years ago.

Of course the Internet has spawned a new kind of centre company -which doesn't deliver over a private network but provides "services in the cloud".  Google - to name but one - are a “centre” company.

Microsoft is in the server business (big time), but at our core we are a desktop company (Windows client and Office). "Build back-end services to use the power of the PC" was as true for Exchange 4.0 as it is for Windows Live.

Now Steve says we want to be in the middle of this ... whilst I don't think anyone can be absolutely central, we don't have to be out at the extremes either. Look at X-box Live. A great service to enable a great client experience (and to my surprise the extra live bits on Xbox 360 have been the biggest difference from original Xbox). Look at Apple. No one could say that the iPod was built just be a client of the iTunes Music Store; it is a great client in its own right. Yet, for many users the store service maximizes what their device delivers. Even examples like writing a blog post ... It's far easier to use my PC to help with the process using Windows Live writer than it is to do compose in text box in a browser. There are some things which only need the software on the desktop and others which are almost entirely in the cloud (with the Browser in place of the VT220 terminal)  - the outlying edges on Hugh's drawing, But the interesting ones - where we want to be - are towards the middle the combination of Good software on the desktop & Good Services in the cloud.

Comments (2)
  1. James ONeill says:

    When I called it an evolutionary dead end, my point was that we see huge amounts of development in mobile phones. 10 years ago the idea that my phone would be an e-mail device, hold movies and music, keep contacts, be voice controlled, do sat Nav, have a a wireless headset, have a camera in it: would have been science fiction.

    Now look at my desk phone. Sure people want to pick up a handset. But do they want to place calls by network address ? Would the web or e-mail have got off the ground if we had to use IP addresses ?

    What does the phone on my desk in 2007 do that the phone on my desk in my first job in 1987 didn’t do ?

    Nothing. Actually it does less, because I knew how to conference call and transfer calls on the 1987 system. I’m not sure about doing either with this beast.

    [Of course it might have a light which says some poor sap didn’t know I was busy and tried to call me but my phone doesn’t]

    You’re right about CLI but it could be solved if CLI was a text field which meant instead of saying "0870 60 10 100" when I called you, it said "Microsoft, Reading" all those problems would go away. The current system is like making you use my mail server’s IP address to identify who I am.

  2. Arthur says:

    "desktop phone has become an evolutionary dead end"

    That’s an interesting point … but not exactly true.

    This is meant as a point of discussion ….

    Whilst I agree that the softphone will eventually replace the physical deskphone, initially by job functionality, but by not within the next 5 years.

    When you begin talking about communications devices, the end-user just wants to pick up a handsetheadset without clicking the mouse, hear a dial-tone, dial a number and know that it rings at the other end; they are not really interested in how the back end works just as long as they can make a call.

    As you know I am one of those who desires the integration of VoIP, and the softphone – heck just look at the potential cost saving on the physical phones alone. But the softphone is not for everyone.

    The Mobile Workforce, (Sales, Technology, Field Ops Engineers, and VP), will benefit from the functionality of having a true "follow-me" communications system; whilst those deskbound workers will continue using a physical deskphone in whatever format it appears.

    In all reality this could just be a dialpad with a headset that is connected to the computer, but will allow the end-user to answer and make calls.

    One thing that we need to remember is that the IP, UC & UM community are trying to achieve in 20 years that which took the POTS & PSTN world 100 years to achieve.

    The greatest object, (and potentially the key), to deploying VoIP globally throughout the office environment is its inability to provide survivability during a network or power outage. The physical phone will continue to work because it is powered from a seperate source, and more often than not continues working even though you have a "black-out". Then there is what the US would call E-911, where you are required to present your geographic CLI, rather than the exchange CLI when dialling 999, 112, 911 ect. which is something that many VoIP providers have not yet resolved.

    Once we are able to provide survivability, along with E-911 then VoIP, and generation-M has fully entered the workforce then we will be ready for global deployment.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Everyone will have differing opinions upon whether VoIP & the softphone should be a global implementation.

    Financiers will view teh VoIP roll-out as investment to the business providing remote communication with the potential for cost savings once the physical phone has been removed.

    Technologists will look at the level of implementation and the costs involved with upgrading the network equipment along with the increased requirement for bandwidth, and then the  potential savings achieved by routing voice traffic as data across the network before breaking out at the in-towncountry local exchange meaning that a call placed in the US calling a customer in London, would be routed over the data network and then routed out by the London break-out to become a local call vice international.

    For those who are interested I have been running VoIP since 2003, and appreciate the additional functionality of a follow-me communications system; But I can also appreciate the product limitations …

    Grateful for your thoughts


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