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Monday, March 20, 2006

IT Roadmap Boston: Part 2

I just finished the afternoon session: "VoIP and Collaboration". Johna Till Johnson started a promising presentation talking about the concept of a Real Time Communications Dashboard (RTCD) which is realized in such products as Microsoft's Live Communications Server and Domino R7. However, the presentation quickly turned more towards convergence deployments instead of collaboration integration. I'm sure some people got something out of it; however, having worked in a converged environment for the past two to three years, I found the topics elementary. Over a year ago, I wrote a white paper describing presence as the driving force behind converged networks. Seeing a presentation slide today saying for the first time, future proofing the network was more of a driver than cost for converged network adoptions was validating on so many levels.

I'm still shocked to see industry analysts and vendors alike still missing the holy grail of convergence - presence. These thought leaders still talk about applications that integrate email, instant messaging and voice; however, the vision of presence as a dial tone shouldn't depend on an application that puts all modes of contact at your fingertips, but rather enables you to use any form of contact based on the preferences of the person you're contacting. This may seem like a semantic argument, but applications today still don't allow the rich presence extensions that users can create to define how they want to be contact, not just how they can be contacted. It should not be my choice of how to contact my "buddy"; rather, I should be his choice of how I should contact him. My user interface should provide the "address of record" contact as my option, not all possible options.

And furthermore, the whole concept of buddies and buddy lists is a holdover from instant messaging. If we're trying to create a new killer application, we should take the best parts of existing ones and add a whole slew of new features. Static buddy lists equate to host lists on computers. They do not scale. We invented DNS to overcome the static host lists. Why would we go backwards now? Creating presence ties into LDAP - the way we dynamically look up contacts for email now - is a much more scalable method. Instant queries of users presence info instead of having to add them to a dynamic list just to see if they're online is the way to design applications that provide instant collaboration.

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