VoIP Systems

Convergence for the Masses

10:30 AM -- Software vendors have been talking about all types of unified communications since EuroBlog was in short pants, resulting in a certain degree of convergence in enterprise communications during the past few years.

But what about the little people -- the consumers? With so many connected devices around these days (phones, laptops, netbooks, set-top boxes, games consoles, dog collars, metal hip replacements... you get the picture), it can be tough to manage all those numbers, email addresses, and virtual identities all at once (unless you're 15 years old).

Having pretty much cleared up in the enterprise communications sector -- see Broadsoft Swallows Sylantro --- BroadSoft Inc. reckons there's new money to be had with a toolset, hosted by the service provider, that allows the likes of you and me to manage all our communications accounts, including our Facebook and Twitter Inc. accounts, from a single Web portal. (See Broadsoft Tackles Consumer Comms.)

It makes sense for BroadSoft to do this -– it's an extension of its existing capabilities developed for business users, and it has a massive installed base in the carrier world, with 450 service provider accounts.

But will the concept catch on? BroadSoft says it has already developed some custom-built consumer capabilities with Portuguese mobile operator Optimus Telecomunicações , and the company says it's engaged with a number of service providers about deployments.

The thing is... the concept looks good in principle, but will the service providers be confident that they'll be able to educate the marketplace about the potential of what is, after all, a quite sophisticated tool? That could be the major challenge in getting this sort of convergence platform off the ground.

Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) will provide a good litmus test. Today it announced Vodafone 360, "a new suite of innovative internet services for the mobile and PC." (See Vodafone Live! Is Dead!.)

The main selling point is that "all of a customer's contacts, status updates and messaging services are brought together in one place enhancing the customer's experience and use of social media." (See Vodafone Goes 360.)

If that service flies -- and it'll need to do better than Vodafone Live! to satisfy operators' management, investors, and customers -- then BroadSoft could find itself onto a winner.

In the meantime, BroadSoft has bagged itself an early nomination in the IP Applications (VOIP, IMS) category of our new industry recognition program, Top Picks. Check it out!

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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