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Microsoft will attack unified communications, the term it applies to converged realtime and asynchronous communications—including IM, e-mail and voice—from the application layer, while Cisco will do so from the network layer, Serafin said. That UCG organization was formed in January to meld Microsoft’s realtime collaboration and Exchange e-mail groups.
In some ways, this is an old story. Microsoft has talked up its role in what was called computer-telephony integration (CTI) for years. But with the upcoming release of new versions of LCS and related products, it’s going to turn up the volume. Microsoft’s issue here is that despite progress in reliability and security, it is unclear how many businesses really want to put all of their communications eggs in a Microsoft basket. In short, people do not want to have to reboot their phones.
Serafin said people want the type of innovation they see on their laptop and desktop to spill over into their overall communications. When is the last time you saw a radically improved desktop phone? he asked.
The growth in VoIP-enabled PBX switches—and the declining sales of proprietary switches—could help here.
Dell’Oro Group reported last week that the IP-enabled PBX category was the only growth segment among all PBX sectors for the first quarter of this year. Avaya’s IP telephone shipments grew 50 percent year over year, according to Steve Raab, researcher at Dell’Oro.
Some Microsoft partners said they welcome the company’s push with open arms, citing customer demand.
“People are sick and tired of having to go four or five places for voice mail, e-mail, text,” said Kerry Mann, president of Mantralogix, a Microsoft systems integration partner in Mississauga, Ontario. “We are looking forward to this with bated breath, although, of course, we need to see proof of concept. The proof is in the execution.”
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