About this blog

News and analysis of developments in the enterprise communication industry and market with primary focus on Europe.

The author aims to tap into ideas, insights and thoughts of the readers to get varied perspectives.

Views expressed in this blog are solely the author's opinion and in no way reflect those of his employer.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Software titans march continues

I am referring to IBM and Microsoft. Both announced a roadmap for their UC portfolio. IBM's Lotus Sametime Unified Telephony is expected to be GA by mid 2008. This launch will be preceded by the release of Lotus Sametime "Standard" in Q4, 2007, Lotus Sametime "Entry" 8.0 and Lotus Sametime "Advanced" 8.0 in Q1, 2008.

IBM's unified communication strategy is centred on its sametime offering. It aims to tie-in all elements of communication and collaboration to its sametime offer which is expected to evolve to support unified telephony. IBM signed a OEM agreement with Siemens Enterprise Communication to license elements of Siemens' Openscape.

Siemens has been one of the early adopters of open communication. Support for standards-based communication facilitating interoperability has been the cornerstone of its OpenPath mantra. Maintaining the central elements of its vision, Siemens has consistently believed in open communication since 'LifeWorks' was coined. In fact, their Openscape is probably one of the best fully-baked unified communication portals available in the market today.

Siemens had a very engaging relationship with Microsoft. Way back in 2005, Siemens had launched HiPath openscape telephony control link (TCL), a separate server that sits between LCS and PBX (supports Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, Nortel in addition to Siemens) to facilitate exchange of presence and notification across platforms. Their relationship suffered since Microsoft formed an alliance (ICA) with Nortel. ICA recently celebrated its first anniversary. It is believed that they have sold in excess of 500,000 licenses (Nortel telephony licenses and LCS CALs) in their first year. ICA product portfolio is expected to be strengthened by the general availability of OCS/MOC.

Microsoft announced the 'release to manufacturing' of OCS/MOC and Round Table on July 26th. Eric Swift, Senior Director, Unified Communication Group at Microsoft said that OCS/MOC is due to be available from Oct 16th 2007. The price list will be made available on September 1. He said that Live Meeting 7 will be released this fall. Microsoft Exchange 2007 SP1 beta is released. At a keynote at VoiceCon, Gurdeep Singh Pall announced Quality of Experience monitoring server, a product developed by Psytechnics. He announced the licensing of Microsoft's RT audio codec about which I have commented in a previous post.

Microsoft's UCG seems confident of OCS/MOC. It has built a strong ecosystem, its alliance with Nortel is delivering results. Recent agreement of cooperation with Cisco is a great step towards creating a traction in the communication technology space. In the past one year, Microsoft has taken concrete steps to shape themselves as a player in the voice market.

Understanding Cisco-Microsoft cooperation

My last post has been quite a while back. Have been busy trying to wrap up a mobile application report. In the meanwhile there has been significant developments in our space. I'll try to comment on them in the coming days.

Recently, John Chambers and Steve Ballmer shared the podium at an event in New York that was moderated by Charlie Rose. They announced that both companies would drive interoperability between their products. There is an interesting blog by NY times summarising the event. In my opinion, the discussion at the event bore a clear indication of a transition to 'best-of-breed' infrastructure sourcing amongst large customers. This came out loud and clear in two of my conversations yesterday. Earlier in the day, in a conversation with a good friend at Siemens, the success story of HiPath 8000 with Global Crossing came up. Later that evening, Eric Swift from Microsoft highlighted ICA's success with Global Crossing. Now thats a coincidence! It is well known that both ICA and Siemens have capabilities to have pitched for both of those RFPs with Global Crossing.

Another aspect of the announcement is the recognition of the market transition to convergence and collaboration. I remember listening to a Digital 2.0 panel discussion conducted by Jeffrey Moore, where Bill Gates evangelised the scope of digitisation. He urged us to think as if computing and storage were free. The scope of digitisation is indeed far reaching enabled by software. He mentioned communication, collaboration and group productivity as the areas where innovation will concentrate. Similar thoughts ware put forward by fellow panelist John Chambers who argued the next transition to be from transaction to interaction caused by innovation in the realm of collboration and convergence.

With both Microsoft and Cisco looking at the same market transition through their individual lenses, customers have started demanding that their products interoperate. This according to me is the fundamental underlining for their cooperation. The best-of-breed strategy that this alliance endorses will help unleash intellectual capital for innovation in the enterprise space that hasn't yet seen the success that consumer market continues to enjoy.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Software PBX maker Sphere Communication to become a part of NEC Corporation

Software based PBX maker Sphere Communication has agreed to become a part of NEC Corporation. The Japanese manufacturer of electronics goods NEC Corporation is to acquire all shares, intellectual property and patents of Sphere for an estimated $ 42.1 million.

Sphere Communication is a tier-2 supplier of software based communication services available primarily in North America. One of the key assets of Sphere is its development platform (Sphere Communication Services Engine) that remains an object of envy for many. Its user-based pricing approach is its competitive advantage. This underlies its best-of-breed approach. Based on open technology, its PBX can work with a multitude of third party phones including Aastra, Grandstream and Polycom. They inter-work with third party voice media gateway from the likes of Allied Telesys and AudioCodes.

NEC on the other hand has a wide breadth of portfolio that ranges from TDM to IP. Frost & Sullivan analysis by Kriti Rao suggests NEC is ranked fourth in terms of market share in N.A. One of the main challenges facing the company is related to transformation and this is exactly where Sphere comes in. Sphere has a small team of talented people who have a forward-looking vision.

NEC Corporation has been focussing on growing their office equipment business for over two years now. They have a JV with Philips in Europe. In addition, they have something called NEC Infrontia. In the U.S the operating business is NEC United Solutions. With the acquisition, Sphere will be absorbed as a operating unit in NEC United solutions. We are yet uncertain of the autonomy of Sphere in the future. Todd Landry, Senior Vice President, Sphere Communication said "this announcement will help Sphere scale and expand its reach".

I am told that channel partners have nothing to fear. Most of them will be happy to include NEC's portfolio. I am not sure. The utility of Sphere's business with their distribution networks is very different from NEC's. Moreover, it will be interesting to see how Sphere's technology partners take this announcement. Overall, I think this is a good deal.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Inter-Tel shareholders accept Mitel's offer

So, the marriage is complete. The merger of Mitel and Inter-Tel will lead to the joint entity to become the market leader in SMB VoIP in the U.S. It will be interesting to see how this announcement affects their international strategies, a market that is three times the size of NA and where Mitel and Inter-tel have very limited and localised presence.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Follow-up on Mitel's patent infringement lawsuit

ShoreTel has come back strong behind a successful IPO. Not only has it launched a counter claim alleging that Mitel has infringed its patents, but also has filed claims of damages up to $10 million and injunction on Mitel for making false or misleading statement during ShoreTel's run up to an IPO.

ShoreTel claims that Mitel's ICP 3300 infringes on its patent on VoIP traffic through a firewall. I have noted in the past that Mitel's actions were in poor taste.