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What's New in the 2008 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications?

The fifth annual Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications (MQ UC) is out! Since this is widely viewed as the industry score card for year-over-year UC vendor progress, let's see what's happening in UC, according to Bern Elliot, Gartner's highly-regarded VP.Just to refresh, Gartner rates companies on two dimensions in the MQ UC: Ability to Execute (i.e. to create and deliver "the products, systems, tools and procedures" for UC) and Completeness of Vision (i.e. understanding of customer needs and market directions to produce opportunities). A mid-point line in each dimension produces four quadrants with the upper right being the coveted "Leaders" quadrant, then clockwise through Visionaries, Niche Players, and Challengers quadrants.

Being included in the UC MQ requires significant market presence (share or differentiating innovation) in three of the six core communications areas: Voice and Telephony; Conferencing; Messaging; Presence and IM; Clients (on devices); and Communications Applications. Sufficient revenue and operations to support the vendor's objectives is also required.

Now the news, paraphrasing the Gartner MQ UC:

Leaders Part 1: All three of last year's Leaders remain:

* Microsoft advanced on both axes based on their UC suite of Office Communication Server, Exchange and Active Directory. Most important is the progress they made in customer implementations this past year; Microsoft's web site lists over 200 UC case studies to date. * Nortel also advanced slightly, again reflecting customer adoption as well as the completeness of both the pure Nortel solution and the well-developed partnerships with both Microsoft (OCS) and IBM (Sametime). * Alcatel-Lucent held their position, with a broad UC portfolio that integrates well with carrier networks for such UC features as mobile hand-offs and call routing.

Leaders Part 2: In addition, three others have joined the Leaders Quadrant.

* Cisco moved from Challenger to Leader based on advances in their portfolio integration and the progressive integration of WebEx into their offerings. Cisco has built on their strong influence with CIOs and the IT and Networking departments to advance customer adoption, primarily in Voice and Telephony and Conferencing.

* IBM advanced significantly from Challenger status based on the extension of their Sametime product vision and delivery, in combination with both Notes and Eclipse (their application environment). Sametime Unified Telephony provides linkages into almost any installed PBX or IP PBX system to add telephony capabilities to IBM's top-ranked collaboration products.

* Siemens Enterprise Networks rose from Visionary to Leader as the well-formed and complete OpenScape UC portfolio is now supported by the additional investment and corporate structure from the Gores/Siemens joint venture. Siemens OpenScape also offers integrations with Microsoft OCS and IBM Sametime. In addition to the Leaders, the 2008 MQ UC includes:

* Challengers: Avaya and NEC * Visionary: Interactive Intelligence * Niche Players: Mitel, Teleware, Aastra Technologies, and Oracle

Now, some Commentary:

So, what does this all mean? I've been watching the MQ UC since the beginning in 2003, and the biggest message for 2008 is that Leadership is now solid and consolidating. There were no Leaders in the 2003 MQ UC, but now there are six strong, global innovative companies, doubling from only last year.

Also, the scale and weighting of the MQ UC has certainly changed. In 2003, placement in the MQ was based on early product announcements and vision. Now, in 2008, it is based on actual deliveries of UC solutions, increasing customer reference cases, and resulting revenue growth. You can imagine that you're seeing the 2008 MQ UC from 30,000 feet compared to about 2,000 feet up on the 2003 MQ UC. There are multiple, competing approaches to UC in the MQ:

* Microsoft and IBM offer the best solutions for extending the entire suite of communications tools across all the users' environments (office desk, mobile, remote) and with integration to enterprises' business applications. While Microsoft is still growing their telephony functionality and IBM still depends on others for telephony functions, both of these companies can fully embrace the requirements for "communications integrated to optimize business processes" for users and enterprises.

* Nortel, Alcatel-Lucent, and Siemens offer solid telephony-based products with well-done integrations with Microsoft and IBM, and functional application development interfaces and toolkits to allow for integration of communications to optimize business processes. Siemens has been especially visible with their integrations to

* Cisco is the wild card in the Leaders group. Not content to work primarily in cooperation with Microsoft and IBM, they purchased WebEx and seem to be accelerating their push of WebEx as the logical desktop solution, extending this with e-mail (PostPath) and IM/presence (Jabber). And, given their network-centric view of both communications and applications, their products are not an integrated software solution, rather are multiple servers interoperating over the LAN and WAN. It is not clear whether Cisco will join one of the prior two categories, or is attempting to start and advance their own.

Mobility solutions are not specifically addressed in this or prior MQ UCs. Mobility is not one of the six categories, but is increasingly important. From one perspective, RIM and the BlackBerry may be the current revenue leader in Unified Communications, but all of the leaders offer their solutions to mobility, as well.

As to growth of the industry, the leaders are just hitting their stride. The MQ UC points to infrastructure investment, organizational alignment, and ROI justifications as UC adoption barriers, but believes these will be resolved by 2010 when UC will be an accepted part of enterprise roadmaps and investments. However, the MQ UC is not a forecast of market revenue or share. For the latest on market size and trends, refer to Blair Pleasant's recent "Unified Communications 2007-2012."

What to Do? It's good to notice that Gartner's advice is very consistent with the recommendations we at UniComm Consulting have been making for some years both at and in a wide variety of CMP venues - VoiceCon, InterOp,, UC eWeekly, BCR Training, BCR Magazine and more. Start by creating a UC plan to guide your work and your investments. Then proceed with a progression of moderate sized, well-justified projects, aligned with the technology evolutions. At UniComm Consulting, we offer methods, tools, workshops, and consulting engagements that support your rapid, effective and economical UC Plan creation. We hope you will interact with us as you build your plans. What do you think? Please post a comment here or write to [email protected].