Will Audio Conferences Replace IM?
LAS VEGAS -- Nortel Networks foresees a time when people will log on to audio conferences all day, just as they stay in touch constantly via instant messaging now.
"We're beginning to anticipate a world where point-to-point communication goes away in favor of constant communication," said Phil Edholm, chief technology officer of enterprise networks at Nortel, during a press briefing at the Networld+Interop show being held here this week.
Edholm was discussing a video-taped demonstration shown during a keynote by Malcolm Collins, president of enterprise networks at Nortel. The demonstration showed an audio conference in which participants could dial in from a PC and see who else was on the call, but they still had to punch in a phone number and access code and navigate a series of voice prompts to get on to the conference.
That aspect of the conferencing technology, reminiscent of today's conventional phone conferences, will be replaced as the technology evolves, Edholm said.
"One of the problems today is, we start communicating in one paradigm and move to another," Edholm said. In the future, participants in online audio conferences will enter through a conferencing interface in which it is easy to add new users, he said. With the cost of audio conferencing going down, there is no reason it can't become the dominant mode of voice communication, he and Collins said.
"It's always on ... in the same way that people go to a Web site to 'talk' to each other [by typing] in chat rooms. Why deal with that? Just talk to them," Collins said.
Also in the briefing, Collins cast a positive light on Nortel's recent management shakeup and downplayed the competitive threat posed by Chinese network equipment vendors such as Huawei Technologies.
Surprise has given way to enthusiasm among Nortel employees following the termination of Frank Dunn's employment, announced on April 28, and his replacement by William Owens. Collins said he was not aware of any customer deals lost as a result of the shakeup and the investigations of the company's finances. However, he acknowledged the company has had to do a lot of work to allay customer concerns.
In answer to a question about competition from Huawei in China and elsewhere in the world, Collins said the company's technology is about 18 months behind that of Nortel and other leading vendors.
"At this present stage, they're really fighting the industry in terms of cost and not in terms of innovation," Collins said. "What they've really been doing is trying to play catch-up with the rest of the industry. ... You've not seen a lot of innovation yet." Nortel competes strongly against Huawei both in China and in other markets, he said.
However, Collins indicated Nortel may have some catch-up to do against well-known vendors such as Extreme Networks and Foundry Networks in becoming the "anti-Cisco buy" for enterprises that don't want to go with Cisco Systems networks. He called Extreme and Foundry "niche" vendors, but acknowledged they may come to mind more readily than does Nortel when enterprises are seeking a Cisco alternative.
"We probably haven't marketed ourselves well there," he said.
Networld+Interop continues through Thursday.