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UC Vendor Landscape in Transition

This year's version of Information Week's annual survey of the state of the UC market, conducted by Michael Finneran, seems to show a vendor landscape that's getting more uncertain. The big guys are still the big guys, Microsoft continues to make steady progress--but in general, there seems to be less attachment to any particular vendor.

The most striking finding is on the question of who the respondents consider the top UC vendors. Asked to name 3 top vendors, the respondents again put Cisco well in the lead, but Cisco's share on this question dropped from 83% last year to 73% this year.

Good news for Microsoft, right? Not necessarily. Microsoft came in a solid second at 48%, but this represented only the slightest increase over last year's 47%. Microsoft did, however, take over solid possession of second place in UC mindshare; even as Microsoft's share was remaining steady, Avaya's was falling from 47% last year--a tie with Microsoft--to just 38% this year. In fact, every vendor that the survey named and asked about wound up losing share from year to year--even Google fell from 16% to 11%. The only players that held steady were industry giants who are minor players in the North American UC market--Facebook, which remained at 3%, and Huawei, which remained at 2%.


However, there was a bit more good news for Microsoft: On another question, the company was ranked the second-leading vendor for on-premises voice, with 31%--still well behind Cisco's 62% but ahead of Avaya's 27% and everyone else's lesser scores.


So I guess the story of the vendor landscape from this year's survey is that 2014 is the year that Microsoft passed Avaya as the #2 company for UC mindshare, if not market share yet. The other big story is that none of the vendors seems to improving its standing in the eyes of customers and consultants.

In other, related UC areas of the survey:

* Cisco WebEx held onto a strong lead in use of Web Conferencing, outpacing Microsoft Office LiveMeeting and Citrix GoToMeeting.

* Not too surprisingly, Microsoft dominates IM usage: Lync has a strong lead, and other Microsoft products--Skype, Exchange 2000 IM Client/Service, and MSN Messenger--also retained significant loyalty. But Cisco Jabber came in at 20% share for IM, which actually struck me as not too bad, considering the strong advantage that Lync has in the deployment and licensing model off of Exchange Server. To some degree, Lync would seem like a default choice for many enterprises, since you're already licensed for Lync IM if you have Exchange. Deploying Jabber would seem like more of a deliberate choice to pursue a Cisco strategy.

Nevertheless, I think what this result shows is that Microsoft has basically won the communications PC desktop, with Cisco competitive in select circumstances. Avaya managed to get 6% response, beating out Lotus Sametime at 5%, and that's it for enterprise vendors--the rest are public or enterprise in-house IM, or no IM at all.


The big challenge to Microsoft here, if it's to come at all, will be from CEBP--to the extent that businesses start integrating communications with their business apps, this may cut into general-purpose IM's usage. In theory, that could provide an opening for all the other communications vendors to work with their partners to provide specialized CEBP implementations that would pull through the call control platform.

So, bottom line: This survey shows us a vendor landscape and an industry in the midst of real transition and uncertainty.