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Unified communications requires different approach

A new generation of social networkers is moving into corporate ranks and changing how users collaborate, says messaging expert Tony Redmond.

Companies expect messaging to happen to and from anywhere at any time on any device. Providing security for that kind of requirement is getting more difficult as users continue to raise the bar for corporate communications.

Tony Redmond, vice president and chief technology officer for HP Services, has helped corporate customers implement and integrate messaging systems for more than 30 years.

Cutting his teeth on Digital Equipment Corp.'s All-in-One messaging system in the early 1980s, Redmond is now responsible for setting the strategy and direction for HP's security initiatives. He also manages a group of international consultants who help Fortune 1000 companies plan, deploy and manage technology integration within their companies.

Redmond has been there from the beginnings of simple messaging systems that made few demands on computer systems to today's vastly complex applications that businesses can't do without. The longtime messaging expert spoke with recently about how unified communications have evolved and what it means for IT managers. What do you think the future of corporate messaging will look like in the coming years?

Tony Redmond: I think we have to look at the way young people deal with the world and how they collaborate because they'll be influencing the buying decisions at companies.

Look at the way young people collaborate now. They're always connected. They don't really care about the details because they totally trust that cloud in the sky. They're not worried where the data is or who is taking care of it. They expect their data to be available to them no matter where they are, and they want simple devices. They collaborate through social networking places like MySpace.

CIOs worry about the integrity of their data so there will have to be a melding of the freeness of that social networking with corporate rigor. What other type of technology do you think we'll see in the future?

Redmond: I think we'll have mobility to the nth degree. Eventually we'll see people stop carrying computers everywhere, and instead I'd have a small device much like a little memory stick, which will fit in the back of your cell phone. It would have all of my personal data on it -- everything I needed. When I got wherever I was going, I would put the device in a slot in a table. I'd turn it on, and all my data would be available. The table would probably have a keyboard, and then you could synchronize everything. If you're in a hotel and you know you like a certain show, it finds it for you based on your data. We could do that today, but the difficulty is inertia. With several new versions of Microsoft products now available -- Exchange Server 2007, Vista 2007 and Office 2007 -- do you think companies will have to buy into those products to have collaboration technology in their systems?

Redmond: No, I don't think you have to. Microsoft has been wise enough to make sure that new installations have backwards compatibility. I just think that it isn't often that three major products like this are engineered and designed at the same time, which means they work better together. They're creating a new fundamental effort across the board.

I've said that companies should take their time, learn about the different technologies involved and decide what is best for their own company. Every company is different. It takes time to figure out how to deploy everything. So is the push to unify collaboration and communication products something new?

Redmond: No. Like everything else in life, this has been cyclical as well. Years ago, the thinking in products like DEC's All-in-One, which included email, notes and interactive discussions, were the way to go. When the PC was introduced, it shifted control of the information from the computer to the user. Now, although users still have a lot of control over the data, it's headed back to a unifying of the functions. So I guess it's come full circle.

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