Analyst: Unified messaging will take off

Unified messaging is expected to explode in the next four years, with the number of users increasing 10 times, from 10.5 million today to 1.4 billion by 2005, an analyst said at a messaging conference Wednesday.

The news is a shift from eight months ago, when users and analysts weren't ready to embrace unified messaging, the software that places all forms of messaging, including voice, fax, e-mail, instant messaging and calendar information, in a single mailbox for access from any device.

Analyst Sara Radicati, president and CEO of Radicati Group Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., said the unified messaging market is expected to soar from the current US$498 million to $8 billion four years from now. She made the comments before a group of vendors and users at the 14th annual European Forum for E-Business, formerly known as the European Electronic Messaging Association (EEMA).

First introduced in the mid-1990s, the technology hasn't taken off because vendor products have been too new, incomplete and undertested, Radicati said. "There were some really, really bad products out there. Basically, the users were testing out these products," she said.

Radicati said she expects wireless service providers to push demand for unified messaging, since users will want to access all their types of messages from their wireless devices.