It sounds lovely, and it probably will be, someday. "That's what I keep reading," says Dana Deasy, CIO of the $40 billion global manufacturing giant Tyco International Ltd., about the telecom millennium. "I think we will get there, but I don't feel it today. I'm seeing business as usual," he adds. "The promise is there, and the need is there. The business scenarios are there. But fundamental change? Not yet."
Deasy enjoys the pricing power big companies like his have established over their carriers. "We are dictating to the vendors," he says. "When we hear about a big deal, we say to the companies, 'Let us tell you how it will be.'" But he wants more than cheap service. He's ready for all this convergence to actually converge into something he can use. "I just don't have a business case for ripping out my existing infrastructure," says Deasy, of his cautious moves toward Voice over IP.
Wireless technology is a must-have, but wireless service is still a problem.
"It's a pain to manage multiple carriers," Deasy says. He's tired of paying for wireless access in the office, and then paying again when an employee is stuck in an airport, and yet again when she gets to her hotel.
"Tyco has a national footprint, so we need the carriers to provide the ultimate in roaming agreements. That's not a technical issue, but an issue of how the companies play together, how they partner on things like administration and billing. I want that to be simple, and we're pushing for it now in negotiations with one of our key vendors."
Meanwhile, he's watching the big deals with an eye to Tyco's global interests, too. "I hold my breath as consolidations play out," says Deasy. "How international will they be in breadth and depth of new offerings? We need that to get better before we're in any kind of new world."
And it will be a while before the handheld devices so central to the techcom story can be counted on to work closely with user networks and each other. At Jefferson-Pilot, Maynard has decided to focus his resources on developing applications for BlackBerrys, but not at the same time for mobile phones or Palm products. "You have to write for specific devices when designing an application for the agents in the field," he says. "The real estate on each devicethings like the shape and size of the screenmakes each one its own design challenge." (See "Tiny Chips & Lizard Brains," page 46.)
End of the Line: The Rise and Fall of AT&T By Leslie Cauley
Deasy sums it up this way: "Think back to what was it like in the first years of the Web. That's where we are now. Is this going to be big someday? You know it is. I think we are close, but we need the killer apps, the universal ones that cut across different industries."
In the meantime, at least the calls are cheap.