Just back from NetEvents (a comms-oriented press & analyst event) . I moderated a panel debate on Enterprise FMC as part of it.
With the exception of one of my analyst peers, the panellists were WiFi network vendors (Trapeze, Strix, Symbol & Meru), so it was a little unbalanced without representation from a next-gen cellular FMC specialist like a picocell, PBX-integrated software switch or low-power cellular carrier point of view.
Nevertheless, even among the panel, there was a fair amount of realism concerning both the technology and business model around dual-mode handset solutions. Yes, they're happening, but while there was a bit of debate about just how difficult is was to get the phones "right" (power, user interface, SMS etc), there was broad agreement that it was still early days.
Limitations on existing deployed WLAN networks' voice capabilities are common, although apparently a high percentage of businesses now insist on voice "future-proofing" with things like 802.11e on new installations. Channels for selling & supporting corporate FMC solutions of any flavour are also slow to evolve. (Those of you in the corporate space may remember how long the last roundof convergence - voice & data on the LAN - took to reach the market, much of which reflected the lack of a reseller base with combined skillsets)
There was also a measure of agreement that there still seems to be little clear driver for dual-mode in the enterprise besides controlling price of calls - an area where the cellular operators can respond, albeit painfully for them.
Personally, my view is that this will happen slowly through 2007 and 2008, but I'm not expecting a sudden mass shift in corporates towards dual-mode handsets until at least 2009. In the meantime, many corporate telecoms managers will call in their cellular sales reps, perhaps with a Nokia E-series or similar sitting on the desk in front of them, to use as a pricing lever.
"Oh, hello Mr Vodafone/Orange/O2.... have you seen one of these? Clever, isn't it? Got WiFi in it, I understand........ [pregnant pause]...... sorry, what was that you said? 30% discount, did you say? And free on-net calls? A customised roaming plan for my employees? How very kind of you to offer. A pleasure doing business with you. See you again in 6 months' time"
Put simply, it's much easier to use a chunky dual-mode phone as weapon to hit people over the head with, rather than use it than to phone them.
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