Lines are being blurred between applications and networking according to Cisco. Parvesh Sethi, Cisco vice president for advanced services said that the rise of coverged system was blurring the boundary.

"Previously, Cisco would ship systems that would be hidden from the end-user. Now, at every end-user desk, you've got a Cisco IP phone," Sethi said.

Sethi, who was speaking at the Communications Developer Conference in Santa Clara also noted acquisitions such as Cisco's purchase of WebEx, which are merging formerly distinct worlds. "You're starting to see software vendors offering telephony services and telephony vendors providing software as a service as well as collaboration software," Sethi said.

Users, meanwhile, are empowered via information sharing, even getting involved in product development. Also, they are blending consumer and work personas, Sethi said. Enterprises have moved to virtual boundaries. "It's no longer the definition of a traditional enterprise as we know it."

Voice, video, data, and other services are converging, Sethi said. Networks are becoming more application-aware, with the ability to differentiate between content types.

Sethi cited the emergence of voice applications on the Internet and in enterprises. IP phones can extend the reach of business applications the way the browser did for the Internet, Sethi said. He listed examples of application areas where converged IP phones would be a good fit: emergency alert systems, real estate, advertising, time clock systems, and broadcast.

Phones or wireless devices can be extended to applications such as reservation systems, to provide for automatic check-in at hotels. The wireless unit could even serve as a room key, Sethi said.

"The power of the applications in this overall Unified Communications space to me is really endless. There's so much that you can do," Sethi said.

IP phones can be linked to business applications and processes, Sethi added. He mentioned an application in use by a Subway franchise owner, in which intelligent IP phones are used to enhance customer service and even find employees to fill in for those who are absent.