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Voicecon: Microsoft VoIP Exec Jabs At Cisco

At Voicecon Fall 2007 in San Francisco, a Microsoft executive said the software approach is best when it comes to unified communications.

playing up the collaborative nature of their relationship

But in a Tuesday keynote at Voicecon Fall 2007 in San Francisco, Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Realtime Collaboration Group, dispensed with the niceties and said Microsoft is clearly better positioned in the market.

Noting that Gartner had moved Cisco from the 'leaders' to the 'challengers' category in its latest Magic Quadrant for unified communications, Singh took a thinly veiled swipe at Cisco CEO John Chambers, who earlier this year claimed that his company has a three year lead over Microsoft in the unified communications space.

"Sometimes -- and I wont mention names -- you can have a three year lead in the wrong direction," said Pall, who repeatedly emphasized the superiority of Microsoft's software based approach to unified communications.

After announcing that Microsoft's Office Communication Server 2007, which was released to manufacturing earlier this month, will be officially launched on Oct. 16, Pall noted that the key value proposition for unified communications in the enterprise is for telecom managers.

Telecom managers are tasked not only with ensuring that users have a dial tone, but also with making sure that communications technology improves the efficiency of business processes, Pall said.

Microsoft's flavor of unified communications shows how software can be used to bridge the gap between different parts of enterprises that don't typically talk to each other, especially in areas such as workflow, according to Pall.

"There's a debate in the industry about the definition of unified communications, but there's no debate about communications enabling business processes," said Pall.

Although it appears that Cisco and Microsoft are preparing for a battle royale for supremacy in the unified communications space, one integrator who partners with both Cisco and Microsoft believes that both the software- and network-based strategies will flourish.

"I think they're both right -- there is going to be an element of both approaches that will end up succeeding," said the source.

"It'll be a cultural change for the TDM world to shift to pure application based collaboration, and we're actually still seeing that battle going on between TDM and VoIP," said the source, who requested anonymity.

Microsoft also took the wraps off the Office Communications Server Quality of Experience Monitoring Server, a tool that companies can use to ensure that voice and video quality requirements are being met, Pall said.

Acknowledging that the term 'unified communications' still have a nebulous feel to some organizations, Pall said it's a technology that will eventually sell itself once enough users have had a chance to get their hands on it.

"Getting people to appreciate the experience of unified communications is like describing the taste of lavender. You have to use it to really appreciate it," said Pall.

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