Skype to put on suit and tie with help from Cisco and ShoreTel

Not content with over 500 million users using its voice and video chat, Skype now looks to make inroads into the corporate market and are in talks with Cisco and ShoreTel to sell its software. Why these two? Because their primary focus has been in corporate IP communications. Skype doesn’t want to deal with any TDM baggage often carried by Big Telecom.

The corporate communications market is obviously a very lucrative one. IDC pegs it at $203 billion. Even capturing 1% of that market is quite significant.

According to this BusinessWeek report, there are certainly challenges to come:

Persuading corporations to ditch their traditional carriers won’t be easy. “There are some major roadblocks to growing this in the large enterprise space,” says Jayanth Angl, an analyst at Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont. Chief among them: giving IT managers more control. In industries such as health care and finance, companies need to track and monitor calls—something Skype doesn’t allow for. Skype also needs to convince potential customers that its service, which is sometimes criticized for poor quality, is reliable and secure enough for important business calls.

Well, that’s on top of some internal challenges, too:

To reorient the company, Chief Executive Officer Josh Silverman has replaced five people on his executive staff this year and cracked down on distracting side projects, which had some employees spending their time building 3D chess software. “Skype is serious about providing our business customers the tools and features that put them in control,” says David Gurle, who left Thomson Reuters in January to run Skype’s business division, where he’s doubling head count, to about 100 people.

Now that Skype is privatized by Silver Lake (eBay sold most of its stake for $2 billion), which interestingly also touts Avaya in its portfolio, it’s time to get serious about business. Yes, no more fooling around with 3D chess software (too bad, I wouldn’t mind seeing what they may have come up with). Skype executives are on a new mission to trim fat and boost sales resources in order to conquer the corporate world.

A conversation with Mike, Tom, and Lucy(Phone)

There are many famous Lucys we’re all quite familiar with. There’s Lucy Ricardo, the main character from I Love Lucy, known for her penchant for getting into trouble. Actresses Lucy Liu (Ally McBeal, Charlie’s Angels) and Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess). The bossy and cynical Lucy van Pelt of the classic comic strip Peanuts, Charlie Brown’s worst enemy on the football field.

It’s not common to find a Lucy in the names of contact center technologies. I know that IVR and voice prompt vendors would personify system voices — referring to “the Sally greeting” or “the Albert on-hold prompt.” A speech-enabled IVR may even introduce itself (himself? herself?) upon answering, “Hello, I am Alfred. How may I assist you?” but not many systems do.

The personification of technology seems a natural way to reach the widest spectrum of users from a branding as well as usability perspective. Score one for LucyPhone.

I’d stumbled upon this service several days ago, complete with a website and iPhone app (Android and Blackberry versions to come soon) to save you time by staying in queue for you. Yes, no more annoying ads, jittery prompts, and music aimed at hypnotizing on-hold callers! Thank God for Lucy and her tremendous patience…

When you first use the service, you’ll hear a greeting from Lucy, then it’s just pressing a button and waiting for her to call you back once an agent is reached. It’s not a new technology by any means as virtual queuing and callback features have existed for years in the contact center. However, how many contact centers have implemented this? Sadly, not a lot.

And if the number of tweets and Facebook fans is an indication of how much people love Lucy, then contact centers ought to take note. This is a feature that your customers want because nobody likes waiting in line — even if it’s a virtual line, complete with soothing music and calming voices. In essence, customers want contact centers to respect their time.

Surprisingly, founders Mike and Tom Oristian do not come from a contact center technology background. (I shouldn’t be shocked, which contact center developer uses Rails?!) They saw a big opportunity to empower the customer to drive increased customer satisfaction, instead of leaving it to the companies to decide whether to offer a callback feature. So far it’s working well as loyal users have entered hundreds of company toll-free numbers into LucyPhone’s website. (In fact, just the other day I found the unpublished toll-free number of a major online company through LucyPhone’s site. Crowdsourcing is a beautiful thing.)

Score two for LucyPhone.

According to the Oristians, the company has less than 10 people and the service is run on redundant cloud servers. The business model is to offer LucyPhone as SaaS (hmmm, “Sassy Lucy”? I like it already) in order to lower cost and simplify integration. The company is actively looking into partnering with Big Telecom to tackle the integration challenges of bringing this directly into the contact centers.

Perhaps with the popularity of SIP this won’t pose as much of a challenge as pre-SIP days. LucyPhone’s enterprise and consumer offerings will work with SIP for the most cost effective integration path. I remember a long time ago having to implement a similar feature but only using proprietary Nortel technology. The solution (or hack) consisted of generating “fake” calls using phantom PBX ports once the customer chooses the callback option, thereby tricking the CTI software into thinking these are real calls in queue, then once such a call hits the agent desktop with a screen-pop, use the softphone to initiate a call to the customer callback number. Not very pretty at all…

I won’t be surprised to see similar hacks in place today to demonstrate virtual queuing and callback. As somebody who knows a thing or two about this technology, I’m glad that LucyPhone offers another option for a contact center to implement this highly desired feature.

Don’t let social media distract your contact center

Is social media important? Yes.

Does your contact center need it? Not necessarily.

Here’s the hard truth: Your contact center still has plenty of room for improvement without even throwing social media into the mix. The IVR menu structure could be tweaked. Response from the backend data dip could be optimized. Speech applications need tuning. Staffing issues need resolution. Quality monitoring is inconsistent. Incorrect screen-pops are becoming a menace. Business intelligence is fast becoming an oxymoron. Etc.

So why are you worrying about social media?

Just because industry analysts and researchers say so? People like Zeus Kerravala of The Yankee Group cannot wait for your company to “get on board with social media,” but in this case the research was tied to Siemens Enterprise, which of course has an interest in selling as many of their social media-capable products as possible. I understand that this is part of the job description and have nothing but respect for guys like Mr. Kerravala, but here is my humble opinion on the whole matter.

Of course, the whole social media craze is spreading like wildfire — much like VOIP, I dare say — but it’s starting to sound like a WMD, or Weapon of Mass Distraction, to contact center operations. There. I’ve said it. Usage of Facebook and Twitter has increased dramatically, but trust me, not a whole lot of these interactions are about business interactions. Most of the time we’re commenting on a friend’s vacation pictures from Mexico (“Awww, so cuuuuuute!”) or tweeting about celebrity gossip (“LiLo gets only 90 days in jail?! #justicefail”). Don’t believe me? Go to Twitter’s website at any time and look at the trending topics. Rarely you’ll find anything relevant to business (e.g. company name, business terms, business buzzwords) on the list… Need more evidence? Listen in on your call recordings and find out what percentage of callers complain about you guys not using social media.

Yes, go ahead and take that deep breath. Do you feel less anxious now?

During my attendance of VoiceCon and ACCE a good portion of workshops and keynotes were dedicated to social media topics. Social media was billed as the next wave of customer engagement and interaction. UC systems, CRM systems, and CTI systems will all need to integrate with social media or risk being marginalized. Contact centers better adopt social media or risk being blamed for trashing a company brand. I saw supervisors under tremendous pressure to learn, devise, and execute a social media plan that I was worried about their health.

Enough already. It’s not the end of the world if your contact center lives in a time warp of 90s technology. My Mom thinks her Luxo-like iMac is the best thing since sliced bread. As long as the technology is doing its job by enabling great customer service to be provided — and need I remind you of the human factor in this equation — then there’s no rush to embrace the buzz of the day.

It would be wise to take a step back and take a hard look at your contact center. I can assure you there will be room for improvement without even mentioning the phrase “social media.”

Countdown to SpeechTEK (and CRM Evolution)

As animal herds in Africa are in search of greener pastures and water sources during the summer months, there’s also another migration to witness. However, this trek occurs in North America.

New York City, to be precise.

Droves of contact center and CRM industry analysts, vendors, executives, freelancers, and geeks converge at Times Square to satiate their thirst for neon lights, gigantic billboards, delicious foods, Broadway shows, and endless merchandising. That is, if the boss isn’t around.

Otherwise, it’s better to show up at the Marriott Marquis for the annual SpeechTEK and CRM Evolution conference. Learn a few things about speech analytics, VUI design, and the latest in speech technology. Ponder upon the reason why the majority of contact centers aren’t speech-enabled. Find words to convince the boss on purchasing and implementing speech technology. Confront speech vendors on why their implementation at your call center still sucked.

But what about CRM Evolution, the twin sister of SpeechTEK?

Do you really want to know? I can summarize it in two words: social media. CRM has evolved, and SCRM (Social CRM) is the new buzzword. Remember to keep tabs on how many times you hear “SCRM” during the conference. You might get tired of hearing it after the first day…

Yours truly will be among the geek bloggers attending this event starting Monday, August 2. Hit me up (via social media or leave a comment) if you’d like to have a beer or meal together while in the Big Apple. I may treat, depending on the outcome of this experiment

West Interactive acquires TuVox

One day after its second quarter earnings report, West (the Interactive division) announces another major acquisition: San Jose, CA-based TuVox. Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed, but something tells me that TuVox isn’t doing too well and its investors wanted an out. From its website, 2007 was the last time TuVox received any sort of industry recognition; its blog hasn’t been updated since June 2009. Digging through its website reveals no recent news…

It wasn’t too long ago that West scooped up Holly Connects, an IVR platform provider which I think wasn’t doing too well, either. While the Holly Connects acquisition was a platform play, today’s buyout of TuVox appears to complement it with a portfolio of on-demand IVR solutions and IVR applications.

I suppose West has done well in identifying buying opportunities, especially in this distressed economy, and using its cash wisely to expand its products and services. Could it be the Oracle of Omaha in the contact center industry?

Press release:

OMAHA, Neb., July 22, 2010 – West Interactive, a leading provider of hosted and managed automated customer contact solutions, today announced it has acquired TuVox, a premier provider of on-demand speech and IVR applications.

TuVox has pioneered a unique agile development methodology for speech applications that can yield a superior caller experience in less time and with less risk when detailed requirements are difficult to specify in advance. “TuVox collaborates closely with our clients throughout the development process,” said Mark Lazar, CEO of TuVox. “We find this allows us to better understand their fundamental business needs and respond with creative solutions that produce great results from the start.”

TuVox constructs applications using proprietary development tools that address all aspects of the application lifecycle, from initial design through ongoing operations and tuning. The tool set includes features often sought by clients, including support for the leading VoiceXML platforms, a replaceable runtime component, and a multi-tenanted administration console for configuration and reporting. The addition of TuVox to the West Interactive Hosted IVR platform enhances the current best-in-class applications that optimize the results of our clients businesses.

“We are extremely impressed with the TuVox staff and their ability to rapidly deploy a high-quality application even when clients had difficulty articulating their precise requirements,” said Pam Mortenson, President of West Interactive. “We believe this capability combined with our best-in-class platform and scale will create a truly unique solution that will be particularly beneficial when working with clients on cutting-edge applications.”

West does not expect results from TuVox to have a material impact to its 2010 financial results.

About West Interactive:
West Interactive is a leading provider of hosted and managed automated customer contact solutions. We help our clients connect with their customers more effectively, deliver superior service and maximize the value of every customer interaction. We provide advanced technologies and a highly scalable standards-based infrastructure to help businesses more efficiently conduct multi-media transactions. We have the people, technology and experience to handle the simplest or most complex solutions. Services include custom speech applications, customer surveys, network based call routing and analytic services.

West Interactive, a subsidiary of West Corporation, is located in Omaha, Nebraska, and serves Fortune 1000 clients in nearly every vertical market. For more information, please call 1-800-841-9000 or visit www.westinteractive.com.

About West Corporation
West Corporation is a leading provider of technology-driven, voice-oriented solutions. West offers its clients a broad range of communications and infrastructure management solutions that help them manage or support critical communications. West’s customer contact solutions and conferencing services are designed to improve its clients’ cost structure and provide reliable, high-quality services. West also provides mission-critical services, such as public safety and emergency communications.

Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, West serves Fortune 1000 companies and other clients in a variety of industries, including telecommunications, banking, retail, financial, technology and healthcare. West has sales and operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Latin America. For more information on West Corporation, please call 1-800-841-9000 or visit www.west.com.

About TuVox
TuVox provides mission critical IVR hosting and managed services to companies who envision voice automation as a strategic part of their customer experience. Since 2000, TuVox has become synonymous with superior caller experience. Throughout its history, TuVox has delivered IVR solutions that have both revolutionized how people use the phone and mobile devices to access information, solve problems and transact business and have achieved the expected business outcome for its clients. TuVox On Demand applications are available as configurable solutions for industries such as banking, financial services, insurance, communications, consumer electronics, technology, utilities, entertainment, healthcare, publishing, retail and travel.

Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of words such as “may,” “should,” “expects,” “plans,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “estimates,” “predicts,” “intends,” “continue” or similar terminology. These statements reflect only West’s current expectations and are not guarantees of future performance or results. These statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, the effects of global economic trends on the businesses of West’s clients; competition in West’s highly competitive industries; West’s ability to keep pace with its clients’ needs for rapid technological change and systems availability; the loss, financial difficulties or bankruptcy of any key clients; the non-exclusive nature of West’s client contracts and the absence of revenue commitments; increases in the cost of voice and data services or significant interruptions in these services; the cost of pending and future litigation; extensive regulation affecting many of West’s businesses; security and privacy breaches of the systems West uses to protect personal data; West’s ability to protect its proprietary information or technology; the cost of defending West against intellectual property infringement claims; service interruptions to West’s data and operation centers; West’s ability to retain key personnel and attract a sufficient number of qualified employees; increases in labor costs and turnover rates; the political, economic and other conditions in the countries where West operates; and West’s ability to complete future acquisitions and integrate or achieve the objectives of its recent and future acquisitions. West is also subject to other risk factors described in documents filed by the company with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date on which the statements were made. West undertakes no obligation to update or revise publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except to the extent required by applicable law.

Media Contact:
Mack McKenzie
402-963-1324

Avaya’s aura of real-time business interactions

Companies must be gearing up for SpeechTEK coming up in a couple of weeks because of these major upgrade announcements. ShoreTel let loose its Contact Center 6. Avaya continues to build upon its Aura foundation.

Everything’s about real-time interactions — calls, emails, faxes, IMs, social media, ponies, and pigeon carriers.

Avaya Aura Contact Center aims to better manage the customer experience by making sense of all the interaction channels in order to easily assign a task to service the customer. It allows the customer to choose whichever method of interaction he (or she) prefers at the moment, and even later when using a different channel to follow up, Aura is supposed to keep up with the various interaction paths taken by the customer.

I’m sure this has happened to you before:

YOU: Hello. I am calling about a billing issue which I’d first notified via email about a week ago.

AGENT: I’d be glad to help you. What’s your account number please?

YOU: But I’d already entered it into the IVR… Anyway, here it is…

AGENT: Sorry, but I have no record of that email.

YOU: Okay, I’m going to start tweeting about this horrible experience…

AGENT: Um, what’s a tweet?

All right, maybe not the tweet part. But sill, somewhat frustrating, no? Only to the Web generation. Grandmas and grandpas would be happy just to speak to an agent after talking to the machine. Avaya is preparing for the flood of tech-savvy customers who aren’t shy, demand instant service, and have a very short attention span. And with Aura, it’s preparing for this future on many fronts, from Contact Center to UC to Conferencing to Session Border Control (yes, even that!), as you’ll see in the press release.

Aura will be a platform to be reckoned with.

Extra long press release here:

For Immediate Release: 20-Jul-2010

Basking Ridge, N.J. – Avaya, a global leader in enterprise communications systems, software and services, today announced a suite of new and enhanced product innovations and services based onAvaya Aura™ that redefine the economics and effectiveness of real-time, multi-media enterprise communications. These new tools and services make it possible to simultaneously accelerate decision-making and achieve meaningful financial impact, while moving enterprises towards a more people-centric approach to collaboration.

“In today’s evolving business communications environment, companies demand the right technology approach to ensure superior experiences for employees and the customers they serve,” said Kevin Kennedy, president and CEO of Avaya. “Avaya’s latest series of innovations accomplishes this through faster, more efficient orchestration of people and information. Making smart business decisions quickly can be difficult, but connecting the right people to solve issues in real-time should be both simple and cost-effective.”

New and enhanced capabilities in Avaya’s suite of Contact Center (CC) and Unified Communications (UC) applications drive improvement in the quality of customer service and employee collaboration for mid- to large-sized businesses while lowering the total cost of ownership. In addition, Avaya Aura 6.0 now features increased security, scalability and flexibility, plus common management and expanded use of virtualization across the entire platform. Avaya Aura can save large enterprises approximately 23 percent in capital expenditures and another 33 percent in operating expenditures, according to a recent survey conducted by Avaya. Mid-sized enterprises typically save even more1.

Today’s announcements include:

  • Avaya Aura™ Contact Center, announced in a separate release today, is a new multimedia contact center application that extends to all types of media, including voice, e-mail, web chat, and instant messaging/SMS. Designed to further enhance the customer service experience, the new offering will help businesses more effectively manage customer experiences in an always-on world. Avaya Aura Contact Center complements the large enterprise solutions of Avaya Aura Call Center Elite and will serve as a multimedia extension to Call Center Elite in the future.
  • Avaya Agile Communication Environment (ACE) facilitates the development of communications-enabled business applications to speed business workflow. Avaya ACE 2.2 includes Event Response Manager, a new packaged application that reduces downtime and increases efficiency by automatically notifying the right people with the right skills to respond to and manage unexpected events, such as inventory shortages, security breaches, etc. A new developer toolkit makes it easier to embed timely and personalized communications into business applications. With Avaya ACE, enterprises can communications-enable their business applications up to 80 percent faster than by using traditional methods.
  • Avaya Aura Conferencing, now available in Standard Edition, provides rich audio, video and Web conferencing features on a single server that reduces management and power requirements. The Enterprise Edition, available later this year, will expand capacity and features to enable internal operator assistance, emergency blast dialing and more. Both editions integrate with UC applications from Avaya, Microsoft®, IBM® and Adobe® to offer a high-quality, integrated collaboration experience.
  • Avaya Aura Messaging provides rich multimedia messaging with choices for accessing and storing messages. The first release of this Linux-based solution is specifically designed to enable Octel users to easily migrate to the new platform by maintaining the familiar user interface while delivering new features such as speech-to-text and speech-based virtual assistants.
  • Avaya Aura Presence Services offers an open standards-based, native instant messaging solution providing federated presence for IBM Lotus Sametime, and IM and Presence across Microsoft®, IBM, Avaya one-X® Communicator, Avaya one-X Agent and Avaya 9600 SIP phones.
  • Avaya Aura Session Manager 6.0 now scales to over 100,000 users, including 50,000 SIP phones and video capable endpoints.
  • Avaya Aura Communication Manager 6.0 can now be deployed as an Evolution server for easy migration of mixed H.323/TDM endpoints to SIP environments or a full SIP-based voice and video feature server.
  • Avaya Aura Session Border Controller (SBC) allows enterprises to securely connect real time, SIP-based unified communications to the rapidly growing number of IP-based devices, smart phones and applications both within and external to a company. The SBC protects a customer’s network and connected devices from attacks such as denial of service, spoofing attacks, “man in the middle,” or access through unused VoIP ports.
  • Avaya Aura System Manager 6.0 provides for a common management system across Avaya Aura that now extends to Presence Services, Conferencing and Messaging, making it easier to administer and manage Avaya Aura components from one central location.
  • Avaya Aura System Platform 6.0, Avaya’s virtualization technology, now encompasses all elements of the Avaya Aura architecture and applications portfolio, eliminating up to 80 percent of hardware compared to competitive solutions while reducing management, power requirements and costs.
  • Avaya 9600 family of desk phones now offer larger, color touch screen displays at a lower price point, function on lower power and provide a low total cost of ownership. A new value-priced SIP model, the Avaya 1603SW-I, provides a low-cost option for small- to large sized businesses.

The company also issued a new release of Avaya Communication Server 1000 (CS1000), which increases scalability, adds support for the IPv6 protocol and enhances SIP support and connectivity. The continued investment in Avaya CS1000 provides installed customers with a smooth migration path into Avaya Aura and supports many of the applications announced today.

Avaya Aura has already enabled more than 400 enterprises to improve business efficiency and increase responsiveness since its introduction last year. Anchored by the open standards, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based, Avaya Aura Session Manager, Avaya Aura instantly reduces complexity and provides the foundation for rich, contextual applications in broader, more flexible, unified communications and collaboration deployments.

German energy provider, Energiedienst Rheinfelden, is among the first customers to adopt the new Avaya Aura 6.0 platform. The company provides electricity and other related services to more than 750,000 residents in southern Germany and Switzerland. With the adoption of the Avaya Aura 6.0 platform, the company is able to deliver superior collaboration and communications capabilities to its employees across its 26 locations, while creating a migration path for future communications investments. According to Friedhelm Bäumer, CIO at Energiendienst Rheinfelden:

“Avaya Aura is strengthening our communications infrastructure for the future. It enables staff-members to communicate and collaborate in an immediate, fast and efficient manner, even across sites. It is also making the switch from ISDN to SIP telephony a gradual one, allowing us to use existing equipment.”

More than 200 individual beta trials and or full implementations of Avaya solutions announced today are already underway. All Avaya solutions announced today are available now or will be available during the third quarter of 2010 through Avaya or authorized Avaya Connect Channel Partners.

This wide range of new and enhanced enterprise communications products and applications announced today are supported by Avaya Advisory Services, which provide consulting expertise for multi-vendor communications infrastructures and Avaya’s broad ecosystem of developer and channel partners. New to the Avaya Advisory Services is a Self-Funded Roadmap to help companies transform cost savings from prior technology deployments into process improvements to fund future technology investments.

“Avaya spent time with us to really understand our business challenges and, using their Self-Funded Roadmap, we improved our customer satisfaction scores, achieving a 40 percent reduction in call waiting times, and the ability to handle call volumes with 30 percent fewer agents,” said Arnt Eirik Johnsen, controller customer operations, Ventelo. “This has allowed us to re-invest in our business and improve customer service.”

Avaya Aura applications and architecture are complemented by Avaya’srecently announced data networking solutions and network management products, which offer up to 50 percent less total cost of ownership (TCO) than the leading competitor, and are specifically built to handle the demands of real-time communications. Designed from the ground up to optimize video, mobile and voice interactions, Avaya’s fit-for-purpose, enterprise communications and data solutions deliver peak performance, efficiency and resiliency with a smaller footprint that reduces the cost and energy requirements of converging communications networks.

For additional information, including a detailed backgrounder on the Avaya Aura products and a white paper, please visit the Avaya press room online at: http://www.avaya.com/gcm/master-usa/en-us/corporate/pressroom/index.htm

JOIN AVAYA FOR THE LAUNCH: Avaya will host a series of global one-hour webcasts on today’s announcement for customers, partners and other interested parties. To register for the webcast associated with your location, please click on one of the following links:

  • For the US, starting at 1:00 pm EDT today, click here.
  • For Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Latin America and South America, starting at 2:30 pm EDT today, click here.
  • For Asia-Pacific, starting at 11:30 pm EDT today, click here.
  • For Europe, Middle East and Africa, starting at 5:00 am EDT, Wednesday, July 21, click here.

About Avaya

Avaya is a global leader in enterprise communications systems. The company provides unified communications, contact centers, data solutions, and related services directly and through its channel partners to leading businesses and organizations around the world. Enterprises of all sizes depend on Avaya for state-of-the-art communications that improve efficiency, collaboration, customer service and competitiveness. For more information, please visit www.avaya.com.

Guest post: The bright future of phones

This guest post is by John Stepp, President of Free Tech Consultants. It’s typed entirely on his Nexus One. Just kidding (but he could’ve).

I know that many are saying that the phone is dead, at least the desktop and landline phone.  If that is the case then why is the mobile world so utterly controlled by the phone?  First people were going crazy to get their hands on the iPhone 4, now many are incensed to find that it has a flaw.  Nobody seems to care much about the revelation that every single iPhone ever shipped has been exaggerating the signal strength of the carrier, AT&T.  No, it is all about the phone.  It is all about the user interface and the user experience.  I understand.  I feel the same way.

When my Nexus One was not perfect and needed to be repaired because of a hardware issue, I had the option of returning it.  Although having calls dropped and having slow data speed was frustrating, I finally decided to just get it fixed.  Just like the Apple iPhone users, I was too enamored with the phone to give it up.  Now that it has the Android 2.2 software on it, the phone is better.  Sure, there is still a dropped call from time to time, but the user interface is great and the data speeds are fast.  Even as the Nexus One is discontinued, CNET tests show that the Nexus One on T-Mobile has data speeds equal or superior to the newer phones.  Whoopi Goldberg was so disgusted with her iPhone 4, she ran over it with her car, but then she went and bought an Apple 3G instead of going to a competitor. The similarity between the Android and Apple infatuation is the great application suites that come with these phones.  From the stunning displays, to the audio/optical communications tools to the immediate access to information, there is much to like.

Gartner recently said that smartphone sales were up almost 50% year over year. And the latest information from ChangeWave Research shows that the next ninety days will have the most explosive growth in smart phones ever with Apple and HTC (Android) leading the way.  However, Research in Motion, the BlackBerry maker favored by most businesses will see its’ market share erode further.  Why are phones that businesses favor in a funk while consumer phones are in such demand that there are now four week backlogs for all the favorites?  The user interface, the phone itself is driving demand and driving change.  E-mail delivery and simple conversations are not enough anymore.  We want pictures, video, social media and immediate access to information.

Businesses will be adapting to this changing landscape on mobility and on the desktop.  Productivity in the workplace will accelerate when the devices employees use in business match that of the devices used in people’s personal lives.  The business telephone and video manufacturers are providing easy to use high value applications for their user interfaces be they computers, netbooks, display phones or video portals.  The future is bright for the companies that decide that the phone (user interface) is everything.  The businesses involved in bringing these “smart” business communications devices to market will grow quickly and sooner than many predict.  And the improved productivity will help businesses grow faster as well, just like the digital revolution did in the nineties.  The phone may morph into many different types of devices, but the future of the phone is as bright as the new displays on the smartphones.