Ubiquitous to the Point of Transparency

The title is not very descriptive, or SEO friendly for that matter. But, it is meant more to evoke a thought — is it possible for a technology to become ubiquitous to a point where we no longer notice it in our daily lives and thus it becomes transparent to end users?

In Benedict Evans presentation “Mobile is Eating the World,” an intriguing point is made that as certain technologies become ubiquitous, they actually disappear. His examples (railways, steel, computerization and software) were illustrated via the frequency of which a certain term is referenced in Google Books. A similar point was made recently by Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, at the World Economic Forum, “the internet will disappear.”

For both Evans and Schmidt, it isn’t actually that these technologies are disappearing but there is an illusion of disappearance. When a technology becomes ubiquitous it becomes completely transparent to the end user, or so engrained in our daily lives that we no longer consider it separate from our daily lives.

We are seeing this in the technologies we use every day to perform our job. For instance, when was the last time you actually had to think about communicating with a customer, partner or colleague? You picked up the phone, sent an instant message (IM) or emailed them. For two of those three communication modalities, you likely didn’t give it a second thought. This is what Schmidt was talking about with the Internet, or Evans with software, and more subtly with mobile. They haven’t disappeared or even going anywhere, but they have become transparent. And, more communication methods are entering the market that increase our connectedness and provide us with the flexibility to communicate how and when we want. This is, more or less, the dream of unified communication. It is to combine multiple channels of communication into one.

Gone are the days where you have to leave a voicemail, but instead you send an IM about the email you sent to discuss over video chat. A recent whitepaper from Osterman Research highlights this increasingly social world similarly:

“Although email will continue to be the primary communication and file sharing solution in most organizations, social capabilities will become increasingly important for a variety of applications.”

But what does this transparency mean for your business? The benefits of transparency aren’t just for the end user. As technologies become ubiquitous, and the new built on the old, IT is actually also winning. While increasingly layered infrastructure sounds like an IT management nightmare, vendors are putting equal effort into simplifying the management and administration of these technologies as they do into the user experience.

For businesses, consider the solution you put in place carefully and investigate the vendor’s strategy for addressing unified communication and streamlined administration. These are crucial areas for businesses if their collaboration and communication plans are to succeed. In the previously mentioned Osterman research whitepaper, Zimbra was called out for IT management; we continue to invest in both user and administrator functionality, making their daily work lives a little easier.

“Zimbra offers a variety of benefits to IT, including the ease of provisioning and managing users, as well as the ability to quickly enable and disable applications and hardware.”

Ubiquitous collaboration siloes and older modalities of communication are being subsumed into unified platforms that allow end users and administrators the ability to seamlessly transition between different channels and endpoints with a cohesive experience. As new technologies are being developed and existing solutions adapted, what is innovative today, will be as transparent in the future, as email is today.

If you are interested in reading the full Osterman Research whitepaper, What You Should Consider When Planning Your Next Messaging and Collaboration System?, please visit Zimbra.com.

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