In my previous blog, I attempted to layout one of the aspects of the evolving communication solution, the conversation. Specifically, individual sessions are aggregated into a higher order concept (conversation) that should be organized by thread or topic. It is one of a number of foundational concepts roughly in the domain of unified communications that concentrates on collaboration. Further, by deciding to include established services (delivered virtually by any provider) and embracing popular consumer devices, this can be done more openly than traditional unified communication approaches making access more universal. Combined, this forms a new kind of UC: Universal Collaboration.
What is the point of unified communications? Converged clients? Email and voice, video, and text? I'd argue the point is to increase productivity by enabling better sharing of ideas and strengthening the ability to relate to others. This is collaboration. If you accept that, then having email and voice in a unified client is fine, but being able to organize your communication (irrespective of modality) by thread (or parties collaborated) is better. Having an interesting new UI running on your desktop is interesting, but having a client that can re-arrange collateral to share on a topic so it is right at your fingertips is compelling. Focus on cueing things to collaborate on, and ease of identifying partners to bring into the longer term collaboration (the conversation) should powerfully drive adoption.
Applying a great deal of critical thinking to how a solution emphasizing universal collaboration must architecturally decompose will yield two main components: the client and some type of collaboration server. In this blog, I'll concentrate on the client, and in the next blog, I'll concentrate on the server portion. The client should run on a multitude of platforms, not just the Avaya Flare™ Experience on the Avaya Desktop Video Device. It should not require the user to switch from specialized client to specialized client for different aspects of collaboration. Directory access should be natural, converged, and easy. Lastly, the collaboration metaphor should be consistent. If I drag a contact into a spotlight to start a session, I should also drag content into the spotlight to share in a session.
To be of most use, the client should support real time voice, video, and text. It should also support email, and near real time (best effort) voice, video, and text messaging. [This is the mobile communication model, not the call someone & wait for them to not answer and leave a message with an adjunct model.] Additionally, it should support instant (presence based) text, voice, and video models. [These are initially broadcasts, until the recipients decide to respond.] In this form, all collaboration modalities are supported, in a single client without requiring the user to switch between clients. Additionally, the participants in the sessions are identified by comprehensive (directory discovered) contact. The user no longer has to worry about learning extension numbers, email addresses, IM addresses, and social network addresses. The client will intelligently account for the addressing based on the type of modality requested. Communication threading required for the longer term conversation will not have to be partitioned into different representations of a single person's identity based on modal communication silos. The client is simply more natural for use when collaborating with anyone.
By adopting this as the base client capability and building it to run on general platforms, a wide variety of devices attractive to the adopting community will be supported. Minimally, iPhone, iPad, PCs and Macs using both touchscreen and mouse style interfaces must be supported. The Avaya Desktop Video Device is an android based device so extending to all android smartphones (especially those running Honeycomb in the future) should also be targeted. Depending on the interfaces and capabilities that Microsoft decides to expose on their mobile platform, it might be a worthy target as well. If the general client can be advanced as the preferred style of "UC" client for systems advancing the more productivity oriented collaboration UIs, then another foundation for the advancement of session oriented communication services and architectures will have been laid. Next we can look at the server side of this - a story for another blog.