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Mitel Aims to Stave Off Lync Voice, Work with Google

All of the incumbent communications vendors are grappling with how to compete against Microsoft Lync, as Microsoft seeks to push Lync from the IM/presence world into core voice/PBX deployments. Mitel this week announced an product strategy that stresses its interoperability with Lync--which it then uses as an argument for why the enterprise doesn't need to "upgrade" Lync to voice.

Mitel announced "MiVoice for Lync," and if the name "MiVoice" isn't familiar to you, it's because that nomenclature is part of a re-branding that was also included in this week's Mitel release. MiVoice is the new name for the company's voice platforms and phones, including MCD, 5000 CP, Mitel 5300 IP phones and 8500 digital phones. It complements the new names bestowed on other key Mitel products:

* MiCollab--Unified Communications and collaboration applications formerly known as UCA, MCA and NuPoint.
* MiContactCenter--The company's contact center offerings.

MiVoice for Lync provides a plugin to the Microsoft Lync client to provide telephony features drawn from the enterprise's Mitel voice platform. The company claims its customers have a couple of areas of concern with Lync Voice:

1. Some are unwilling to trust mission-critical voice to Lync;
2. Lync Voice has higher TCO than legacy telephony platforms.
3. Lync Voice is optimized to provide voice for deskbound knowledge workers, and is less suited for use cases that depart from this--enterprises such as health care, where features like mobility and overhead paging are in strong demand.

Mitel also hits Lync on its ecosystem approach, in which the customer needs third-party gateways and end devices, which it claims creates complexity and further drivies up cost of ownership.

In addition to its not-so-loving embrace of Lync, Mitel also folded Google into its most recent release, announcing integration of its MiCollab UC suite with the Google Cloud Platform and Google Apps. This provides integration to Google's calendar, email, instant messaging, presence and contact management features.

The final element in the announcement is an offering that packages the MiCollab UC suite on a single virtual appliance. The company says this will reduce resource utilization by 50% over existing deployment options, with provisioning possible in less than 30 minutes.

Mitel's approach is probably the most practical way for a smaller vendor to compete against Lync. Cisco has the market heft and marketing strength to launch a head-on attack, as they did the week that Microsoft kicked off its Lync Conference in February. But for the other legacy voice vendors struggling to fend off Lync Voice encroachment, the best approach is probably to simply accentuate your strengths, integrate easily with Lync IM/presence, and hope the buyer sees things your way.

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