Unified Communications Adoption Slows in Recession, Report Says

A report from research firm Synergy finds the economic downturn has severely impacted the growth of unified communications solutions.

A report released by Synergy Research Group found the worldwide market for collaborative applications-which the group defines as a collection of network-based applications that facilitate the working together of two or more individuals regardless of physical location-amounted to $913.3 million in sales in the first quarter of 2009.
In general, according to the report, the extended pause in enterprise telephony sales continues while prospects and customers await the recovery of the global economy, assess the effects on their budgets and postpone buying decisions directly affecting collaborative application sales. The research firm's collaborative applications market segment include categories such as UC (unified communications) desktop, presence management, instant messaging, desktop Web/video/audio conferencing unified messaging and mobile 2.0 applications.

The biggest growth market in collaborative applications was UC desktops. Synergy defines a UC desktop as a user workspace having the minimum requirements of access to voice telephony (PBX/KTS/dial tone) and integrated presence management and instant messaging capabilities.
A UC desktop can be made up of a tightly integrated, single-vendor solution combining voice telephony and presence/IM or a multivendor telephony and presence/IM solution integrated into a unified worker's desktop. Synergy further breaks the UC desktop into the categories of enterprise (systems that ship with 150 lines or more) and SMB (fewer than 150 lines).

Avaya led the report's ranking of vendors for UC desktops, though sales fell 14 percent year-over-year and fell 18.5 percent compared with the first quarter of 2008. Cisco, Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent fell into second, third and fourth place, respectively, while Microsoft placed fifth with a 12.6 percent drop in sales year-over-year and a 28.1 percent drop compared with the first quarter of 2008. The average selling price in the UC desktop market, which has been holding steady over the past six months, dropped slightly in the first quarter of 2009.
"We believe those vendors that are in a strong strategic position, such as Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Siemens, ShoreTel and Mitel, are in good shape to weather the present business environment and provide a strong UC migration story," said Synergy CEO Jeremy Duke. "Those vendors that are more exposed and are displaying challenges with market share progress and in addressing other significant industry issues, include 3Com, Aastra, Nortel, NEC and Toshiba."
Trends spotted in the Q1 2009 report include the pressure on SMB credit availability, which is fostering a growing interest in UC outsourcing and increasing demand for managed service offerings in Q1 2009, and the importance of social networking-UC vendors continue to look to interface or incorporate social networking applications into their UC offerings.
In the SMB category, ShoreTel continues to grow its UC offering and carve a leadership position in the face of significantly larger competitors, according to Synergy's vice president of research, Ken Landoline. "Although ShoreTel, compared to its competitors, has challenges with brand name recognition, international presence and a limited service provider reseller channel, [it] has optimized on current market conditions with Nortel's market challenges and the company is moving ahead aggressively with channel build-out and international expansion," he said.