Uh oh, there's that word again. Convergence. The solution to all our problems.
Siemens has released OpenScape, which integrates phone, voice mail, e-mail, text messaging, calendaring, instant messaging, and conferencing services. Its all centered on IM to synchronize use of different modes of communication, with a SIP server (Session Initiation Protocol) for telephony integration. OpenScape 1.0, however, requires Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Server 2003 and Greenwich collaboration server. Its the latest in a long line of communication and collaboration solutions to leverage Outlook as a platform. And its estimated to cost as much as $400 per seat.
This may just be unified messaging redux, but Mike from Techdirt is right that it has potential as a productivity tool if its simple enough for people to use. People use many modes of communication. Optimize only a one or two and you may make communication in its entirety even more sub-optimal.
With the falling cost of more traditional communcations (original videoconference sessions were $100k a pop), putting users in the driver seat is not a bad thing. Problem is this approach of deep integration creates greater costs and risks.
Corporate IM is a good center for user management of complexity, but who knows if they have gotten this right. If as advertised, its designed to fit within workflow, it may be on the wrong track. Communication is not a process, its an informal practice whose patterns cannot be pre-defined.