Free Cisco Jabber: What Does It Mean?
We are entering a new era in UC and the market. Cisco is responding to the success of Microsoft in getting the Lync client by including it in popular enterprise licenses.
Cisco recently announced that it would allow unlimited use of Jabber in any organization that had Cisco Unified Communications Manager. In a blog post, Cisco VP Barry O'Sullivan announced that any CUCM customer could now deploy any of the new Jabber clients, without additional cost. This announcement said that this capability was not tied to a Cisco IP Phone or license. So an organization with a deployment of 50 CUCM phones can now expand that deployment to provide IM to the entire organization.
What this means is that we are entering a new era in UC and the market. Obviously, Cisco is responding to the success of Microsoft in getting the Lync client deployed through the strategy of including it in popular enterprise licenses for the Microsoft software suite. With this new strategy, combined with the presence capabilities Cisco demonstrated in the new Jabber PC clients at Enterprise Connect, Cisco and its partners can argue that Jabber is an equal or better option to Lync. As Cisco is focused on a broad range of device support (iOS, Android, Blackberry, etc.), for many customers with BYOD strategies, the Cisco offer may be attractive.
One critical point that this and the Microsoft Lync pricing emphasize is that IM is now both a requirement in UC and a true commodity. While enterprises will now demand IM as part of their UC options, they will not expect to pay an additional fee for it. IBM has been including IM and presence in SameTime for quite a while, so this is really just the final increment. For companies like Avaya and Siemens, this means they either need to offer an equivalent IM solution or find a way to partner with an IM provider. Siemens appears to be partnering more closely with Microsoft in this area, while Avaya has indicated it intends to offer its own SIP-based IM clients as part of the Flare user experience. It will be interesting to see if Avaya offers a Flare "lite" with only IM, to compete with the Cisco Jabber offer.
The Microsoft reaction to this announcement may vary from reacting in ways that may change the industry, to simply ignoring it. Microsoft may conclude that Cisco is a day late on this and with about 120 million Lync licenses for presence and IM already in enterprises, Microsoft has may feel it has a clear leadership position. However, many of those Lync licenses are either partially deployed or not deployed at all, so the Cisco Jabber threat could be real, especially as it comes with telephony integration for existing Cisco voice customers. If Microsoft sees this as a real threat, one response could be to open up the telephony features in Lync without an additional license fee. To date, Microsoft claims 3 million voice Lync users, but that is based on purchases of the advanced licenses required for voice. If Microsoft opened all of the installed Lync users to complete voice services included in the base price, would many more enterprises look at Lync as their next voice system?
In the end, this is probably heralding the next step in moving enterprise voice communications down the same path as IM. In and of itself, voice will not be a saleable capability; it will be included in a larger set of UC and business offers. The challenge for Microsoft, Cisco, Avaya, Siemens, and IBM is to define what their total offer is and how that offer defines the market spaces they will lead.
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