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Well, someone finally came out and said it.

"Voice is just another feature for us."

The statement came from Nitasha Walia, senior product manager at Zoom, in conjunction with Zoom’s announcement last week that it was adding a PBX service to its highly successful cloud-based video service. She emphasized that Zoom will continue to lead with video however, hence the reason voice is just another feature for the company.

When voice systems started migrating to IP, vendors said voice would eventually become “just another application on the network,” and Zoom’s announcement seems to confirm that this forecast is finally coming true. You could see Zoom’s announcement as confirmation that voice really has taken a back seat to other media. After all, it’s “just another feature.”

Then again, voice is a feature that Zoom apparently feels is important enough to warrant building its own PBX software to enable its service. As my colleague Michelle Burbick points out in her No Jitter article on the Zoom PBX, the video service already interoperates with several legacy PBX systems and UCaaS platforms, so if voice were truly an afterthought, it presumably wouldn’t be worth Zoom’s time and effort to build its own voice capability.

Having decided it needed to offer voice within the skin of its own service, it made sense for Zoom to build its own: The leading provider of cloud-PBX software to carriers, BroadSoft, is now a part of Cisco, with whom Zoom competes fiercely in the video space.

The era of the pure-play cloud communications vendor is over; in fact, it was so short that it probably doesn’t even qualify as an “era” -- a moment, maybe. Whatever you call it, we’re now seeing pretty much every company that started out offering a discrete service from the cloud -- be it UC or video or an API platform -- has fleshed out its offerings with most of the capabilities it lacked, usually adding in contact center for good measure.

This means that when the enterprise confronts cloud communications, we are (or soon will be) back to the familiar dilemma: single vendor or best of breed? Rollouts like the Zoom PBX service suggest that you could make a single-vendor decision based on the communications medium or service that’s most important to you. If your enterprise (or some portion of it) has come to rely heavily on video and has taken to the Zoom service, at the expense of using telephony, then when it finally came time to retire the legacy PBX CPE that served those users, you could add on Zoom voice to cover whatever vestigial telephony needs they still had. You wouldn’t have to go seek out a dedicated UCaaS service provider, let alone replace the PBX on prem.

But what about more strategic, enterprise-wide decisions? Is it still a Microsoft vs. Cisco call? Or can you develop a multistage, multimedia, long-term strategy with one of the former UCaaS-only providers, like RingCentral, 8x8, or Vonage? Or can you develop a strategy around a company like Twilio, which has added contact center and now email to CPaaS?

The possibilities are growing, and it’s impossible to tell at this point if certain models “work” while others definitively don’t. Tackling these issues is going to be one of the mega-topics we’ll spend a lot of time on at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2019, which takes place March 18-21. We’ve posted a little over half the program sessions, with more being added regularly. I hope you’ll check it out, and that we’ll see you in Orlando next March.

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