This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.
IBM to Ante Up $1 Billion for Unified Communications
Clearly, the UC battle has been joined between Microsoft and IBM. In relation to my earlier post on today's Microsoft-Nortel Innovative Communications Alliance announcement, there was one portion of my briefing with the companies' representatives that I left out because it was tangential to the main points of that piece--but it's relevant here. Ruchi Prasad, VP and GM of ICA for Nortel, mentioned the following role for the Microsoft-Nortel partnership: "We have had customers who have decided to move from Lotus Notes to Exchange, and at that point in time they come and say OK we're looking at the desktop decision, so what's our UC strategy?"
Echoing her comments, Craig Schuman, Director of Business Development and Strategy for the UC Group at Microsoft, said:
One of the things we like seeing, partnering with Nortel, is helping us move folks on [Lotus] Notes over to [Microsoft] Exchange. I think that's a great example of a good success for the Alliance. But I think overall too is, we really view that software-centric approach simplifying management for customers as well as reducing cost. We just find the alliance really helps customers migrate to unified communication and VOIP at their own pace. And we're a firm believer that this really gives the customers the better total cost of ownership and reduced infrastructure complexity.
Ruchi makes it clear that the Notes-to-Exchange decision tends to get made prior to her group's involvement, and that this decision then opens up the communications decision-making process for a fresh look (or a first look) at UC. It's not that Nortel is encouraging Notes customers to switch to Exchange, just that Nortel may be best positioned among the voice vendors to capitalize on such a situation.
It does raise the question, though, of whether any of the voice vendors can really be neutral "arms dealers" in the Microsoft-vs.-IBM war. Everybody wants to say they have partnerships with Microsoft and IBM, and ultimately if the endpoint decision remains the chief gateway to the larger UC conversation--which I think might be the case today--maybe all the vendors can peacefully co-exist.
But at the same time, if Avaya, Nortel, Cisco, etc. aren't influencing the biggest UC decision, then...well...they're not influencing the biggest UC decision. It makes it that much harder for the voice vendors to position and differentiate themselves against one another for UC--unless, like Nortel, they can lay claim to a special relationship with one or the other of the endpoint providers.
UC is still a fairly nascent market, so all the vendors in this space have some time to finesse these issues for now and see how things shake out as a whole--who gets acquired, who goes out of business, who takes a bold new tack that clearly separates them from the rest of the pack. Today, an enterprise that's planning a switch from Notes to Exchange, or vice versa, is just as likely to do nothing about UC as to make a significant commitment to a technology strategy. And those who are standing pat with their endpoint systems may likewise be holding off on any UC decision-making.
At this point, it's a matter of the vendors jockeying for position.