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Speaking at the VoiceCon conference in London, Mike Rhodin, General Manager of IBM Lotus software has predicted five trends which he says will drive the future of unified communications, reshaping the way that we work around the globe. According to IDC, the unified communications market will be worth a staggering $17 billion in revenue by 2011. That's a growth rate of 38 percent compounded annually from 2007. IBM has no less that 70 researchers and more than 1300 developers and technical experts working on social and collaborative software research projects in the field.

So what are those five predictions then?

  1. The Virtual Workplace will become the rule. Social networking tools and virtual world meeting experiences will simulate the feeling on being their in-person. Work models will be changed by expanded globalisation and green business initiatives that reduce travel and encourage work at home.
  2. Instant Messaging and other real-time collaboration tools will become the norm, bypassing e-mail. A new generation of workers has a new expectation for instant messaging as the preferred method of business interaction.
  3. Beyond Phone Calls to Collaborative Business Processes. Companies will go beyond initial capabilities like click-to-call and presence to deep integration with business processes and line-of-business applications, where they can realise the greatest benefit.
  4. Interoperability and Open Standards will tear down proprietary walls across business and public domains. Converged, aggregated, and rich presence will allow businesses and individuals to better find and reach the appropriate resources, removing inefficiencies from business processes and daily lives.
  5. New meeting models will emerge. The definition of "meetings" will radically transform and become increasingly adhoc and instantaneous based on context and need. 3-D virtual world and gaming technologies will significantly influence online corporate meeting experiences to deliver more life-like experiences.
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