HP, Microsoft Forge $180 Million UC Alliance


Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Microsoft have unveiled a four-year, $180 million global initiative to work together to deliver integrated unified communications (UC) and collaboration solutions.

Unveiled Tuesday at Interop Las Vegas 2009, the two powerhouses said the deal is an extension of their 20-plus-year Frontline Partnership, through which the two companies collaborate for enterprise offerings.

The $180 million investment will go toward product development, professional services and joint sales and marketing. All products and services that stem from the pairing will be available through each company's channel organizations, HP and Microsoft said.

Manfred Arndt, distinguished technologist of unified communications solutions for HP's ProCurve Networking division, said the combined HP-Microsoft offerings will span software, hardware, networking and services to help companies capitalize on collaborative tools to boost productivity and ultimately reduce travel, telecommunications and IT operating costs by streamlining communications across messaging, video and voice with connected application and devices. The end result will be solutions that facilitate and deliver VoIP, video, conferencing and a host of other collaborative applications.

"Unified communications is not a point product," Arndt said. "It is a vision and a strategy."

Jeana Jorgensen, Microsoft director of marketing for unified communications, added that the goal of the integration is to make the PC the endpoint for communications and collaboration.

"At the end of the day, it's about customer choice," she said. "We want you to be able to compute wherever you are in the same exact manner you're used to."

The pairing comes as UC and collaboration solutions are poised for explosive growth. According to a recent report from Forrester Research, 84 percent of enterprises in North America and Europe are evaluating, piloting or implementing UC and collaborative solutions. That market is expected to grow at a rate of 35.9 percent through 2015.

The initiative ties together HP and Microsoft's visions and best practices for building productivity solutions on open software-based platforms that work with applications and systems people commonly use. The pairing will spawn solutions that are accessible from nearly any device, Arndt said.

The two companies will form joint teams to collaborate on products and services development across Microsoft's Office SharePoint Server, Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS), as well as HP's ProCurve networking gear. Additionally, HP will certify the HP dx9000 TouchSmart Business PC and select smartphones for Microsoft unified communications software, like Office Communicator. HP will also deliver new IP desk phones certified for Microsoft OCS and other unified communications tools.

HP and Microsoft will also offer end-point interoperability with HP Halo Telepresence Solutions and OCS-based unified conferencing to enable remote participation at any OCS-enabled PC to join telepresence conferences. Meanwhile, HP also announced that Halo will now be part of HP's ProCurve division.

On the professional services side, the two companies will launch a full set of business productivity services including assessment, architecture planning and design, implementation, monitoring, management and support for software, hardware, network, server, storage and infrastructure components. HP will also dedicate a global team of service professionals to support the joint solutions. Both companies will also target communications service providers and offer them the same technologies and services to enable hosted UC and collaboration services to SMBs.

HP and Microsoft will also provide services for customers who seek to run their technology on-premise, fully outsource or a hybrid combination of the two, while also working together to address real-time collaboration needs through HP Halo Managed Services and HP ProCurve products.

The two companies will assign dedicated sales teams to their joint solutions and train thousands of technical and delivery personnel. They will also showcase the joint offerings in Microsoft Technology Centers and HP Customer Briefing Centers worldwide.

HP is also expected to launch financing and trade-in programs through HP Financial Services to accelerate the adoption of the joint solutions.

Arndt added that the HP-Microsoft mash-up is an alternative choice to other UC and collaboration solutions on the market and will help customers and the channel offer solutions tailored to organizations' specific business needs.

"This will ease the transition to unified communications," Microsoft's Jorgensen said. "We've always communicated and we've always collaborated. Now customers are looking for guidance because there's such a variance of definitions on what unified communications is."