Thursday, October 11

Can Unified Communications Connect With SMB Customers?

By The VAR Guy

The VAR Guy usually yawns when a research report lands in his inbox. Tech industry researchers, after all, mostly want to tell you a market is about to boom — but you’ll need to pay up to get the exclusive data. Still, AMI Partners did catch The VAR Guy’s eye with a new report on Unified Communications in the SMB market. Here’s a quick overview.

According to the report’s findings:

  1. AMI Says: SMBs are evenly divided between the ideas of a best-of-breed solution versus a single integrated strategic solution provider. Clearly, there is room for both, which suggests inter-operability among various solutions as a must-have capability. The VAR Guy’s Take: Everybody wins? Sounds highly unlikely.
  2. AMI Says: Channel partners need to evolve into business consultants to be able to effectively sell UC solutions. The VAR Guy’s Take: Um, thanks for stating the obvious. Channel partners have needed to evolve into business consultants for every major technology wave since the mid-1990s.
  3. AMI Says: Low cost/free tools such as Skype are making a strong impact, given the convenience and mobility enhancements inherent in this service – over 350,000 SMBs in the US are using Skype for business communications. The VAR Guy’s Take: He’s a Skype fanatic who couldn’t agree more.
  4. AMI Says: The biggest hurdle to the success of unified communications has been the lack of an integration platform backed by a significant market leadership vendor to tackle the challenge of linking disparate channels of communications. The VAR Guy’s Take: AMI Partners is trying to say that Cisco has been too busy focused on the enterprise to dominate the unified SMB market.
  5. AMI Says: Cisco, Microsoft and possibly Google are the leading contenders for an integrated UC platform in the SMB market, but still have a lot of work ahead of them. The VAR Guy’s Take: Sounds like AMI is planning a sequel. Everybody put aside a few bucks for next year’s report.

Kidding aside, AMI Partners has been good to The VAR Guy in recent years. The company does deliver some fresh perspective rather than the tired old predictions about PC and operating system sales. Looking ahead, The VAR Guy is willing to bet that Asterisk, the open source IP telephony platform, lands in next year’s report.
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