The hosted business model, where a service provider manages much of the back office and operations of a telecom product, relieving the customer of the hassle and much of the equipment expense is becoming quite popular. Qwest is the latest provider to launch such a product – Qwest iQ Hosted Unified Communication Service (HUCS).

Qwest’s HUCS “provides end users the benefits of integrating voice, e-mail and video services so they are accessible by landline phones, mobile phones, smart phones and computers.” As a product, unified communications attempts to manage and simplify all of the communications tools — email, voicemail, instant messaging, video conferencing, etc. — available to end customers. Its primarily an enterprise business tool, but also is creeping into the SMB and consumer markets as well, thanks to the growing options of ‘staying connected’ in today’s world.

“The complexity of communications has saddled many enterprises with disparate network assets and a wide array of communication devices. Unified communications platforms provide a logical migration for enterprises interested in moving to an integrated, IP-driven environment that offers feature-rich benefits for end users and administrators,” says Dan O’Connell, research director for Gartner

A lot of blue chip companies including Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft (and most large service providers) are banking on unified communications as a growing cash cow. Not to be outdone, Google is also banking on it and in typical Google disruptive fashion, Google Wave is their attempt to turn the nascent UC marketplace on its ear.

As for Qwest, they announced that Arizona State University is their charter customer for HUCS. Not a bad win.

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