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Cisco, Microsoft Reaching Out to Developers

The idea of the communications platform as a service, or PaaS, got a lot of attention last week with platform-related announcements coming from Cisco and Microsoft. If developers had to pick one or the other to work with as a PaaS provider, I wonder, which would it be?

Cisco Bets on Tropo
In explaining Cisco's decision to acquire Tropo, Rowan Trollope, Cisco SVP of collaboration, told No Jitter associate editor Michelle Burbick the company's main reason "is because that's the way the world is moving" (read "Trollope on Tropo: 'A Platform Play.' ") And, he added, Cisco thinks it "can uniquely differentiate by providing connectors from our existing assets to the new stuff."

The Tropo acquisition is a smart move for Cisco, giving it a cloud platform that it can use to start attracting developers -- something the company has been challenged to do in the UC&C space. Service providers, enterprises, and the 200,000+ developers using the Tropo cloud API platform can now leverage those APIs knowing their efforts are backed by a market leader and should soon be easy to integrate with other Cisco collaboration and real-time solutions.

With Cisco's large share in the enterprise and service provider markets, it should have success attracting developers. This, in turn, will translate into new solutions that will make communications and collaboration easier for customers of all kinds -- enterprise, SME, SMB, and even consumers. (An interesting side note: When I read the Cisco/Tropo blog about the announcement, I had a sense of déjà vu. Had I read this previously? In some ways, I had. The descriptors are almost identical to those Genband used last fall in describing its Kandy platform-as-a-service offering.)

Microsoft: From the Smartphone to the Business Process
PaaS was a consistent theme last week at the Microsoft Ignite conference, during which the company hammered home the idea that developers of all kinds can easily use its platforms to innovate. On the operating system front, for example, multiple keynote speakers and many breakout session presenters made the point: the Windows 10 OS uses the same bits in all devices, from smartphones to tablets to notebooks and desktops. Developers can develop one app that will run on all devices. This is a big win for users -- consistent apps with consistent user interfaces on all devices.

Microsoft predicts Windows 10 will be running on 1 billion devices within two to three years. With Windows 10 coming as a free upgrade, some analysts predict 350 million upgrades to the new OS in the first year alone. That leaves 650 million to meet Microsoft's forecast. While its 1 billion prediction is over two to three years, the conclusion is that Microsoft is expecting to gain traction in the smartphone market.

I remember talking to a Microsoft executive a number of years ago about the company's challenges in the smartphone space. The feeling was that Apple had sucked all the oxygen out of the developer space. Since then we've seen Google get some air with Android, and now it looks like Microsoft is expecting to take a breath and get back into the smartphone game with Window 10. This is a good strategy for Microsoft and one that could turn things around for the company in the smartphone game.

Microsoft didn't stop its developer messaging at Windows 10. Microsoft had sessions on its Skype Developers Platform, and announced that it has released a developer preview of Skype Web SDK. An important part of Microsoft's developer program is to facilitate the integration of communications into business processes.

And a number of Ignite sessions included information on how Lync, now Skype for Business, is moving to the cloud. This is part of Microsoft's plans to offer a full-featured UC hosted service -- and this is where it gets interesting. Cisco and Microsoft have both announced programs to attract developers, but they have very different paths to their cloud offerings.

Cisco will leverage the cloud presence of its service provider partners, a group that includes AT&T, BT, Deutsche Telekom, China Telecom, and many others. Microsoft, on the other hand, will use its own cloud, which includes more than 1 million servers and counting. Microsoft is a partner and a competitor with many of the same SPs, while Cisco is a partner and does not compete.

Only three companies have invested in the cloud and could compete as a pure-cloud solution. They are Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, with Google and Microsoft offering hosted UC solutions.

As Cisco and Microsoft compete for developers, it will be interesting to see how the developers chose with which platform to work.