Unified Messaging Shipments Fall, Report Finds

Global mailbox shipments decreased by more than 4 million during the first six months of 2009, according to a report from T3i Group.

The latest report by research firm T3i Group's InfoTrack for Converged Applications (ICA), which tracks voice and unified messaging (UM), found global mailbox shipments decreased by more than 4 million during the first six months of 2009 (down 28.4 percent) compared with the first half of 2008. Manufacturer revenue dropped even more sharply year over year, down 32.9 percent, to $405 million. Avaya led in global revenues while Nortel experienced the most severe downturn in its messaging business, with shipments declining close to 50 percent. Only three manufacturers -- Siemens, ShoreTel and Panasonic -- increased their global shipments during the first half of 2009.

According to the ICA report, "First Half 2009 Global Messaging Mailbox and System Shipments," UM shipments, while down 12.4 percent in mailboxes and 21.3 percent in revenues, were the one bright spot. For the first time, UM revenues exceeded those of voice mail (VM), both globally and in the U.S, and UM mailboxes exceeded VM in the U.S. Global acceptance of UM, as measured by the percentage of total mailboxes, increased by 7.6 percentage points. While prices eroded for both VM and UM, the combination of improved UM penetration with its higher-priced mailboxes kept the messaging industry revenue from falling even further.

All global regions experienced declines, with CALA (Caribbean and Latin America) down 43 percent, North America down 35 percent and APAC (Asia Pacific) down 32 percent. T3i Group noted EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) "appeared comparatively healthy", down only 13 percent. From a global market share point of view, the U.S. lost five percentage points, which T3i attributed in part to the breakup of Nortel. EMEA increased its global market share by 6.5 percentage points due to in-region manufacturer strength, with T3i noting Siemens grew while Alcatel and Aastra declined less than the large U.S.-based competitors operating in EMEA.

"Despite price cuts and attractive bundling, the growth trend established during the past few years could not compete with the economy and resulting job declines, which forced enterprises to cut growth plans that could have required additional messaging capabilities," said Ken Dolsky, senior program director at T3i Group. "Going forward, we expect manufacturers to increase their use of UC bundling to offer attractively priced options, tie messaging to other powerful applications, improve mobile access and begin to reduce reliance on telephony sales as a pull-through for messaging."

Dolsky said promotional activity as free mailboxes and reduced prices on upgrades, which had been prominent in all regions during the first half of 2008, was less evident in the first half of 2009. Instead, manufacturers sold product by bundling messaging with other applications, including Unified Communication (UC) packages. Dolsky said this strategy drove sales, helped boost the penetration rate of UM as a UC application and exerted upward price pressure.