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Is Siemens Conceding the Desktop?

I think you'll see that the voice vendors who have entered into unified communications will start to modify their strategies , including Siemens, to be supportive of Microsoft, IBM, SAP and Oracle. Because at the end of the day, the vendor who owns the workflow software and the desktop software is the logical place to integrate communications into. So the role of the voice vendors will not be as a primary provider of unified communications but as a communications enabler of other software applications that are out there.

Mark was clearly saying that the traditional "voice" vendors are going to be the engine powering future communications systems, but won't be the user-facing element to any major degree. Mark added that, "We think that Microsoft has it right that ultimately voice is a software based application." That in itself was a noteworthy admission, because Siemens has been among the prickliest critics of Microsoft OCS, asserting flatly that OCS is not a "telephony" system. (Siemens had been a close partner with Microsoft until it was usurped in its leading role by Nortel.)

To its credit, Siemens was the first vendor in any realm--traditional voice, business software, messaging, etc.--to present a truly coherent picture of a migration that went beyond like-for-like TDM-to-VOIP PBX replacement, into the realm of what Siemens originally called "2gIP," meaning what came after basic IP-PBXs. For Siemens, this vision came to life in the form of OpenScape, the company's first-to-market (at least among the big vendors) Unified Communications client.

But now, Mark Straton is talking less about OpenScape and more about HiPath 8000, the company's big-enterprise softswitch that potentially can deliver datacenter-based telephony for an entire enterprise network. In fact, I'm sure Mark would resist the notion that OpenScape is passe, but he did say this:

We think more and more that OpenScape--we'll continue to market it because there's many environments where you have a multi-vendor environment or you're not a Microsoft or IBM customer. But if it's an IBM or Microsoft customer, the role of OpenScape will be more middleware, and the role of the HiPath 8000 will be the software-based enterprise class communications system.

I read that as Siemens basically conceding the desktop to Microsoft and IBM. OpenScape may work under the covers or in a small portion of the Microsoft or IBM client, but it won't be front-and-center.

In one sense, this has been obvious for some time--not just with Siemens, but with all the traditional voice vendors. But Mark Straton's comments clearly show a shift in focus toward the core, and toward a middleware function for Siemens add-ons.

Of course, Mark sees this as a gradual migration over time, which is also the clear likelihood:

The current converged or hybrid voice over IP market will continue for probably at least a decade. And that's because many customers today still don't have the ability to put voice or video or these applications on their IP networks even if they wanted to. And everybody wants to, it's a question of where is your total IP strategy and IP network capability at.

Can the voice platform vendors make it as the engine at the core, absent a proprietary lock-in out at the client? In that 10-year range Mark mentions, their core competence providing scalable, reliable, high-quality voice communications will be indispensible. But in 10 years, will Microsoft OCS have the chops to take on that core role for everyone including the largest enterprises? And if so, what do the voice guys do?

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