Lines are blurring between the applications and communications arenas as well as between consumer and enterprise IT users, a Cisco Systems official emphasized at the Communications Developer Conference on Thursday.
Previously, Cisco would ship systems that would be hidden from the end-user, Cisco vice-president for advanced services, Parvesh Sethi, said. "Now, at every end-user desk, you've got a Cisco IP phone," Sethi said.
He also noted acquisitions such as Cisco's purchase of WebEx, which are merging formerly distinct worlds.
"You're starting to see software vendors offering telephony services and telephony vendors providing software as a service as well as collaboration software," Sethi said.
Users, meanwhile, are empowered via information sharing, even getting involved in product development. They were also blending consumer and work personas, hei said. Enterprises had moved to virtual boundaries. "It's no longer the definition of a traditional enterprise as we know it."
Voice, video, data, and other services were converging, Sethi said. Networks were becoming more application-aware, with the ability to differentiate between content types.
Sethi cited the emergence of voice applications on the Internet and in enterprises, and Cisco's Unified Communications vision, which features virtualisation, security, ease of use, and openness.
Virtualisation, Sethi said, was really all about being able to access the information anytime, anywhere on any device.
IP phones could extend the reach of business applications the way the browser did for the Internet, Sethi said. He listed examples of application areas that could leverage Unified Communications and IP phones: emergency alert systems, real estate, advertising, time clock systems, and broadcast.
Phones or wireless devices can be extended to applications such as reservation systems, to provide for automatic check-in at hotels. The wireless unit could even serve as a room key, Sethi said.
"The power of the applications in this overall Unified Communications space to me is really endless. There's so much that you can do," Sethi said.
IP phones could be linked to business applications and processes, he said.
Sethi mentioned an application in use by a Subway franchise owner, in which intelligent IP phones were used to enhance customer service and even found employees to fill in for those who were absent.