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ShoreTel Sky will be a closely watched piece of the ShoreTel portfolio in the next year, as ShoreTel expands distribution of services through the broader base of partners and also releases products specific to the integrated platform, such as the AppFuse application integration product it debuted at Dreamforce in September.
Along with the rollout will come headaches both expected and unexpected, such as last week's ShoreTel Sky outage following Hurricane Sandy's assault on the New York City area.
But partners say ShoreTel's set expectations appropriately.
"Sky does what it's supposed to, does it well, and is available to sell and make margin on today," Verteks' Gulling said. "I don't know that ShoreTel needs to do a lot more to communicate what's next -- it's going as well as can be expected. I'm eager to see the ShoreTel handset integration, how data backup is going to work and all that stuff too. But they're approaching it the right way. This is very different than a premise-based solution sell, and if ShoreTel tried to market it through the channel as just another product, it would fail."
ShoreTel's demonstrated it knows how to attack competitive customer bases by how effectively it's turned Avaya customers, said McGee-Smith, particularly Nortel SMB customers. Dealing with cloud and the hosted communications model is a different animal, but ShoreTel has a platform, a product and a strategy in place.
"I'm not one of these people who thinks the world's going to be 100 percent hosted in five years, but there is steady growth there," McGee-Smith said. "Whoever has first-mover advantage is really going to benefit, and ShoreTel definitely has it."
Some partners said they'd like to see better air cover from ShoreTel when it comes to marketing and positioning Sky.
"They haven't done a great job knocking the socks off of competition in terms of how much better it is. I have to say that's been less than awe-inspiring," said Robert Plessett, managing partner at TeleSwitch, a Miami-based solution provider. "Where I am in Florida, you have a lot of resellers pushing Broadsoft-based services, and [vendors] like Earthlink and 8x8. It's hard to justify that ShoreTel is much better than those, and when you're asking the customer to pay sometimes 30 percent higher, that is hard."