Users and vendors at the Electronic Messaging Association conference last week were looking for ways to integrate their various forms of corporate communications into a single messaging system. But the consensus was that, despite years of hype, it's going to take time for that to actually happen.
"I think that the technology is there for a lot of it," said Clark Loffman, vice president of global messaging at Credit Suisse First Boston. "But I don't think that it's there to deploy on a wide . . . 24/7 basis."
The convergence idea - known as unified messaging (UM) - calls for the integration of all forms of messages - e-mail, voice, fax and calendar information -into a single system that can be accessed by the user's device of choice, be it phone, cellular phone, e-mail client or Web-based wireless device. Ideally in such a system text messages can be translated to voice and vice versa.
Michael Goldgof, vice president and general manager of enterprise messaging at Lucent Technologies, said integrating some of the functions users want into a UM platform isn't going to happen soon.
One key application of UM would be to link customer relationship management to a user's messaging function. But that appears to be a year or two off, Goldgof said.
"[UM is] certainly not there yet," said Melissa Taylor, senior manager at WorldCom. Taylor said users have been hesitant to accept the wireless element in UM because of security concerns.