Unison: World Likes Free, Ad-Supported Enterprise UC

Would you like an offer for office supplies to go with that click-to-call functionality? Maybe not, but Unison Technologies is betting you would put up with it in return for getting unified communications for free.

The company has partnered with Canonical Inc. for an Ubuntu/Linux-based version of its client-server UC suite, available as a free download. It gives business users full Unison UC functionality, including e-mail, telephony, IM, calendaring and directory services.

The catch is that it’s “sponsor-supported” (read: You’ll get ads. (Visual examples here).

Ad-supported applications are obviously a given in the consumer space, and with cloud services and an ongoing Web-enabled “consumerization” of the business environment, perhaps business users will overlook the decidedly non-corporate feel of sponsored pages. And if they can’t (Trojan horse strategy alert), enterprises can upgrade to the ad-free paid version should they choose.

Aside from being potentially annoying, will the serving of ads spark concerns about privacy? Unison said advertisers will receive only statistical data and that the system will not store personal information or pass on such information.

The idea of taking a page from the consumer world to target businesses is not unheard of. Consider the iPhone and business Skype. But whether the B2B ad-supported strategy becomes a viable business model remains to be seen.

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