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Gartner UC Magic Quadrant 2012: Mature but Dynamic Market

The 2012 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications (UC MQ 2012) is now published. You can obtain a vendor-sponsored copy of this UC Magic Quadrant from Microsoft, Cisco or Siemens (Cisco and Siemens require registration information for a download). We really appreciate the effort and the value of this report, which Gartner has published annually since 2003.

Gartner Magic Quadrants organize on two axes--ability to execute (can the vendor deliver and support the products and serve the markets) and completeness of vision (is the vendor understanding the market and delivering what the market needs). To be included in the UC Magic Quadrant, Gartner requires delivery of six technology areas: Voice and Telephony, Conferencing, Messaging (e-mail, voice mail, and UM), Presence and IM, Clients (various software-based user interfaces), and Communications-Enabled Applications (also called CEBP by Gartner). Let's look at what the UC MQ 2012 has to say.

The market is mature, according to the UC MQ 2012, which says that, "During the past year, UC vendors advanced their increasingly full suites of functionality, with particular progress in the key areas of mobility, video and hybrid deployment options." Our Enterprise Connect 2012 UC RFP presaged the Gartner report, as all of the vendor RFP responses showed good coverage of the key elements of Unified Communications.

Another sign of maturity is that there was very little movement in the Magic Quadrant between 2011 and 2012. The four vendors in the leaders quadrant--Cisco, Microsoft, Siemens and Avaya--are in almost exactly the same spots in that quadrant as in 2011. (Well, Cisco is tooting their horn for moving a few pixels ahead of Microsoft, but the positions are essentially the same--Cisco and Microsoft neck and neck and far ahead of any others.) Alcatel-Lucent slipped out of the leaders quadrant to the challengers quadrant, due to issues noted by Gartner in the areas of product line, channel coverage, and financial cautions.

The challengers quadrant--strong on ability to execute, but with some issues on completeness of vision--is occupied by Alcatel-Lucent, NEC, IBM, and Huawei. Huawei moved up from niche quadrant in 2011, and that's noteworthy because Huawei continues to build strength in its home Asian markets and is leveraging that strength to begin UC delivery in the U.S. and Europe.

The visionaries quadrant--strong on completeness of vision but needing more execution strength--is occupied solely by Mitel, as it was in 2011. Mitel earns this position due to strengths in software architecture, leadership in virtual server and virtual desktop configurations, a blend of premise-based and cloud-based (UC as a Service) options, solid administration and mobile clients.

The niche quadrant--showing some issues with both execution and vision--is occupied by ShoreTel, Interactive Intelligence, Aastra Technologies, Digium and Toshiba, all of whom were in that same quadrant in 2011.

This maturity, however, has other implications. Since UC includes all six of the areas listed above, but an IP-PBX does not, it seems that most enterprises will focus their buying criteria on the UC vendors, selecting what they need from those UC portfolios. Since the leading IP-PBX vendors are in the UC MQ 2012, it seems enterprises may increasingly focus on the UC MQ, rather than the Corporate Telephony MQ.

The UC MQ 2012 also notes that many enterprises are buying UC solutions to augment, rather than to replace, their legacy PBX or IP-PBX systems. This is very consistent with our sessions at VoiceCon and Enterprise Connect for the past 5 years and with the work we do with our enterprise clients. Seldom does it make sense to increase the investment or to delay the UC benefits in order to first upgrade or replace the enterprise voice communications (i.e. PBX) platform and all the phones, especially as desk phones are increasingly in question.

Also, probably due to this maturity, Gartner says, "The stakes for vendors in the enterprise UC market are exceedingly high. The stakes for enterprise decision makers is (sic) also high." In other words, making mistakes or lagging in UC will have big implications for the vendors, and making poor or uninformed UC decisions could have long-term negative implications for enterprises. Of course, we have been emphasizing UC strategic planning and roadmaps for the past seven years.

Gartner also highlights the areas of Mobility, Openness, Cloud and Broad Solution Appeal as issues for the vendors. You can read a more detailed analysis of these points at UC Strategies.

Several closing comments are worth making.

* The UC MQ 2012 is critical of the desktop software vendors (IBM, Microsoft) for their lack of a complete IP-PBX replacement option but does not critique the IP-PBX vendors for their lack of an e-mail solution.

* The emphasis on Mobility seems more relevant to the vendors' product lines than to the enterprise customers' investments; Michael Finneran often posts on this topic.

* The emphasis on Openness would be better phrased as an emphasis on interoperation; enterprises seem to favor having things interoperate out of the box versus a custom interface developed by a VAR or SI with open standards.

* More emphasis may be warranted on the Communications-Enabled Applications, since a growing number of enterprises are delivering communications as part of enterprise software applications or as part of Social Business user interfaces instead of via traditional, monolithic, one-system-fits-all telecom or infrastructure solutions.

Please share your comments below. This is an important topic and we would really like to read what you think!