Microsoft requires no introduction. They are still one of the world’s most successful and formidable software companies despite many challenges in the post Web 2.0 era. Paul was hired to help formulate Microsoft’s “unified communications” strategy in light of emerging standards used by carriers to control voice calls in their networks (IMS).
Alongside their highly visible Microsoft Exchange groupware product, Microsoft had been developing and installing integrated office communications systems (e.g. Office Live) to merge enterprise and carrier voice services with enterprise groupware services running on Exchange. Like all vendors in the “unified communications” market, Microsoft faced numerous challenges in navigating the various communications standards and services, which varied considerably from region to region.
During the last decade, we have seen the rise of IP-based communications, driven by various innovations, ventures, and standards, like Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). The IP-based communications protocols were adopted by the global carrier standards bodies, including the 3G Partnership Project (3GPP), the body responsible for evolving the world’s most successful telecoms standard ever – GSM – into its equally successful cousin – 3G – now being overtaken by LTE.
As part of the 3GPP adoption of IP-based communications, SIP became a core protocol for controlling how voice calls were handled by 3G networks. This became part of the IP Multimedia Sub-system (IMS).
When IMS first surfaced, there was some initial excitement that for the first time ever, carriers would be using an open “software and Internet friendly” protocol that might enable the same sort of innovation that the Web had seen around its open protocol – HTTP. Indeed, Paul had been vocal in drawing the parallels between SIP and HTTP, trying to encourage the development of a “SIP browser” that would act as the same “universal client” as the Web browser had for all Web-related services.
Microsoft needed help in understanding how to develop a product and market strategy to align their groupware and integrated voice offerings with IMS. This was not just about technological alignment, but the wider ecosystem implications, market opportunities and strategic alliances (e.g. with carriers).
When a team of consultants was hired to look at the problem in depth, it is not surprising that Paul Golding was invited to participate in guiding Microsoft’s “IMS strategy.” Not only had he been a leading voice in next generation communications generally, but he had already documented the wider potential for IMS in a series of conference papers and in the revised edition of his best-selling book, Next Generation Wireless Applications. Paul had also been appointed in an interim consulting role as Motorola’s Chief Applications Architect to bootstrap their entry into the value-added services markets, including an entire IMS Applications strategy.
This consulting engagement was typical of those where Paul is called upon not only to decipher the immediate technological possibilities, but to expose the wider strategic opportunities gained from envisioning various future scenarios.
Paul’s work provided Microsoft with a detailed understanding how and where to invest their resources in the “unified communications” story, which, to this date, still suffers from a lack of the right balance of ingredients to create a scalable business and technology platform for service providers and innovators alike. The strategic business opportunities for IMS were recognised by very few in the carrier world and, to this date, it has remained an unexploited opportunity, almost dead and buried by the “Over The Top” phenomenon (see Paul’s recent guest-post article on the Vision Mobile blog.)