Well, That Was Fun
We just finished our first general session here at VoiceCon Orlando 2010, and the sparks flew.The issue was interoperability, and our panelists--from Alcatel-Lucent; Avaya; Cisco; HP; IBM; Microsoft; IBM; and Polycom--threw quite a few elbows. Mostly it was Phil Edholm of Avaya (who came over in the Nortel acquisition) squaring off with Warren Barkley of Microsoft over who was more proprietary. Phil asked why Microsoft's OCS client (Office Communicator) wouldn't work with anyone else's central system, to which Warren shot back, "Whose proprietary protocol do you want us to work with? Yours? Cisco's?"
I'll have a writeup with more detail on this session later today, but I think the fact that these guys came out swinging is significant. With hints of a turnaround in the economy, together with more than a hint of consolidation among the vendors in the industry--many of those onstage being living, breathing evidence of that consolidation--the stakes suddenly look pretty high. Even Jack Jachner of Alcatel-Lucent, who's always come across as more scholarly than combative in these VoiceCon sessions, pushed aggressively for the idea that you need a "communications company" (hint, hint)to build your communications around.
Everyone in the session agreed that the best way to plug-and-play interoperability of UC components would be to replicate the WiFi Alliance model of certification and compliance. But when the session closed, these guys looked much more like competitors than ever before.
And if the stakes are high for the vendors in the industry, they're nearly as high for the customers: Can you make a new generation of investments that captures the value and functionality that these guys are promising, and will retain that value? This is shaping up to be one of the core questions that I'm going to be asking at the show.Microsoft and Avaya square off over the issue of interoperability in the show's first general session. Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, IBM and HP mixed it up too.