Microsoft's Pall Leads Channel Into VoIP Battle

But in an August keynote at Voicecon Fall 2007 in San Francisco, Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of the unified communications group at Microsoft, took a swipe at Cisco CEO John Chambers, who earlier this year declared that his company enjoyed a three year lead over Microsoft in the unified communications space.

"Sometimes -- and I won't mention names -- you can have a three-year lead in the wrong direction," Pall told conference attendees.

While many industry experts interpreted the comment as a sign that the Microsoft-Cisco unified communications cuddlefest is ending, Microsoft partners say Pall has never been one to mince words when it comes to talking about the superiority of Microsoft's software oriented approach to unified communications.

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"He has definitely been the dominant figure in Microsoft's unified communications strategy, and he is recognized in the channel as the visionary for what the platform is going to deliver," said Stephen Moss, COO of NSPI, a solution provider in Roswell, Ga.

Pall's vision can been clearly seen in Microsoft's efforts to aggressively hire talent away from competitors and bring in the necessary subject matter expertise for unified communications, according to partners. Jay Lendl, vice president of Microsoft services at Granite Pointe Partners, a solution provider in Plymouth, Minn., says this has helped Microsoft quickly get on an equal footing with entrenched foes like Cisco and Avaya.

"We've seen Microsoft bring in folks from a variety of companies with strong telephone VoIP experience, and without that they never would have got this far. In addition to making the technology investments, they've also realized the need to invest in people," Lendl said.

Leading a strategy that uses software to bridge the gap between different parts of enterprises that don't typically talk to each other, Pall often talks of the importance of connecting Microsoft's different partner communities in order to bring them into the broader enterprise platform.

But ironically, Pall at Voicecon said that early on, one of the his key challenges as Microsoft's unified communications czar was getting partners and customers to understand what the term 'unified communications' means and how it can make business communications more efficient.

"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," Pall said.