Enterprise Connect Time for a Developer Track

Enterprise Connect 2017 Recap: Is it time for a developer track?

Posted On April 1, 2017 by Chip Wilcox in Blog, Ecosystem, Unified Commmunications

The dust is settling in the Gaylord Palms parking lot as another edition of Enterprise Connect comes to a close, here is my Enterprise Connect 2017 recap.

It’s already been an exciting week since we attended TADHack Mini Orlando last weekend. I was going to provide my perspective on these two events in one post, but Enterprise Connect was interesting for other reasons which stand on their own; it became difficult to pack everything into a single, concise post.

The last time I attended Enterprise Connect was in 2015. I arrived in Orlando from Austin, Texas, where I spent a few days at South By Southwest (SXSW). My mind was pretty blown after seeing the scale and sheer madness which descended on Austin during SXSW. When I arrived at the Gaylord Palms, my first impression had me worried that Enterprise Connect was not the right place for me to be.

There were too many suits and ties. It seemed like it was the going away party for old school/legacy video conferencing systems and solutions providers. It was a massive contrast to the giant, digital media, AI, IoT, film, and music-induced rave that was SXSW. As I meandered around the Palms’ exhibition hall, I ran into a few people I knew, but by and large, I felt like I had landed on a different planet.

And, in 2015, there were few to NO developer-focused companies talking about APIs, SDKs, or offering a Platform-as-a-Service for real-time communications. Twilio had just become a thing, and companies like RingCentral, Nexmo (a Vonage company)  and 8×8 were only just getting started making “telco” capabilities like SMS, 2-factor authentication accessible to web and mobile developers.

Iterations on interactions vs. innovation

Flash forward two years. Today, Twilio’s a public company. They must have done something right. The idea of using SDKs and APIs to embed SMS or add security features like 2-factor authentication to apps is now mainstream. And, Enterprise Connect had a conference track called “Communication API’s”! Enterprise Connect 2017 so compared to the 2015 edition, this year’s offered a very different picture of what’s coming for Unified Communications and Collaboration.

I attended this year’s event with a colleague. One of our customers, TapToSpeak.com, demonstrated their product for an audience of 100+ at the “WebRTC Stories from the Field” session. That was fun. Alongside Vladimir Beloborodov (Mera Software Services, Inc.) and Tom Smith (CX Product Innovation, Verizon), Tap To Speak’s CEO Marek Wawrzyniak conducted a live demo of his product’s audience engagement app for conferences and events.

It surprised some that Tap To Speak’s demo went so well, given that the Wi-Fi network at the Gaylord Palms is renowned for being sketchy and temperamental. And, even the best are thwarted during live demos. That is one thing that didn’t change in the two years between 2015 and now. Yes, it is ironic and sad that everyone attending the largest unified communications technology conference in the United States can’t seem to get a stable internet connection. Marek rocked it while analyst-moderators Brent Kelly and Irwin Lazar helped out by asking questions using the service on their smartphones from seats in the audience.

Another observation: There were far fewer suits and ties at the conference this year. Anecdotal evidence and a few passing comments from other presenters lead me to believe that there were quite a few more developers at Enterprise Connect this year. There were also a few more companies attending who stated they a) worked with or offered some product that had WebRTC as a component; b) had some API or SDK or “Developer Toolkit.”

Interoperability was another major theme this year. Again. I call this a red herring, folks. So what if you can make one expensive, hardware-heavy telepresence solution work with another vendor’s equally costly hardware-based conferencing system? So what, if you’ve just “bolted on” the ability to have endpoints using web browsers and WebRTC to talk to your expensive, hardware-heavy telepresence solutions?

Nothing will make customers feel satisfied with the fact that they spent a ton of money on incompatible solutions, but now it’s okay because they can all talk to each other?

I’m not saying that video and audio collaboration and conferencing apps should go away. I was pleasantly surprised by Google’s JamBoard and the pre-launch demo we got at Enterprise Connect, but that’s not exactly an equal trade for Google’s shutting down access to the Hangouts API.

And then there is Microsoft’s Office Live’s integration with Sharepoint and Skype for Business. It looks very slick compared to the unholy mashup that is Google Apps / Drive / JamBoard.

Still, the question remains: Is all this innovative? Or just iterative?

My impression: Enterprise Connect *is* trying to keep up with the evolution of their audience; they’re not moving fast enough.

Is it time for a developer track?

What was missing? Many more companies need to bring toolkits, APIs, SDKs, and developer-friendly solutions to bear. They’re out there. They’re just not at this conference.

What could fix that? A developer track, and a hackathon that’s truly integrated with the event. Like TADHack, perhaps? TADHack Mini Orlando happened the weekend before EC17, and while TADHack winners did get to present at a late afternoon session on the first day of the conference, I’d say that was a pretty weak link. That’s a shame.

What if we wove TADHack into the fabric of Enterprise Connect? What if instead of it being just a TADHack Mini, it was TADConnect or a TADHack Maxi? Maybe Alan Quayle has some things to say here? 🙂

In my opinion, the future of the UC and Collaboration space has to be one that includes far more developer-focused tools and solutions, and a pathway for attendees to focus on solutions and learn something new.

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