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.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Exchange UM vs Call Pilot

Sometimes I wonder how business decisions are made! One of those that baffle me is the choice between Call Pilot and Exchange UM. A little background on this - Nortel and Microsoft announced an alliance in July 0f 2006 agreeing amongst other things to do joint R&D and synergise their go-to-market program in the area of UC. Nortel has a very strong background in the areas of telephony, contact centre, messaging (including Unified Messaging, a market where Frost & Sullivan ranks them second in North America). Microsoft on the other hand has very high market share in e-mail and collaboration space. One of the areas of product overlaps for the Microsoft-Nortel alliance is Unified Messaging. Nortel's offer, the CallPilot has been in the market for at least 10 years. I know, one of my peers used CallPilot in his lab way back in 1997. Microsoft on the other hand introduced Unified Messaging capabilities in Exchange 2007.

Unified Messaging seems to have never taken off as expected. In these years, the industry evolved to offer Unified Communications with very little installed base on Unified Messaging. So, despite the long history and relative product maturity, CallPilot and its product peers didn't create the adoption curve, the markeeters so hoped to achieve. On the other hand, UM in Exchange 2007 seems to have caught the fancy of many. In the numerous discussions that I have had in recent months with user organisations and channel, there is a unanimous voice to try and test UM within Exchange. That said, the numbers are far lower than what CallPilot commands. Now I am sure if I had spoken to the market when CallPilot was launched, I might have encountered similar euphemism. So when I hear the buzz in the industry suggesting Nortel might reduce R&D activities on CallPilot, I wonder how such decisions are made!

Unified Messaging and Microsoft Exchange

If you talk to people who have been part of the Unified Messaging (UM) evolution, you may notice a taste of bitterness towards Microsoft. The Redmond based company introduced Unified Messaging in their Microsoft Exchange 2007. This development comes almost 10 years into the life of UM. Yet all you hear in the market these days is Microsoft Exchange UM.

A few weeks ago, I was asked if there was any traction for Microsoft's UM in the market and how it affected competition. Based on my discussions with user organisations and having seen some fresh shipment figures of the main players, I could say with some confidence that I didn't see any effect on competition. To the question on traction, I begged for time.

Since then I spoke with a number of people in the channel community across the world. Plus I interacted with a number of user organisations. For instance, the other day the IT Director of a borough in England clearly indicated that he will be considering UM once he installs Exchange 2007. I met up with a country manager of a software vendor who said that a growing number of his clients are talking about UM in conjunction to Exchange 2007.

This begs a question--what is it about Microsoft UM that leads to such a traction compared to competition's products that has been in the market for over 10 years? I can offer you my thoughts but first let me find out what you think.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Challenges for Microsoft in the UC world

Microsoft released a number of UC products with a lot of fanfare in SanFrancisco. It was great to watch Bill Gates deliver the keynote. As always he offered a great vision; this time for office communication.

Microsoft released a few products today that include Office Communication Server 2007, Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, Microsoft RoundTable, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 (new release), Live Meeting 7.

You may view the webcast http://www.microsoft.com/uc/default.mspx to get a grip of what they are saying if you haven't already done so. In this post I am going to focus on the challenges ahead for Microsoft UCG.

Challenge 1- Negotiating the installed communication technologies: The communication technology market (enterprise telephony; conferencing including audio, video and web; collaboration) are mature. In some cases (ex: enterprise telephony) the solutions are pervasive.

Microsoft has taken a bold approach that it will build a new communication paradigm. Its newly released products won't work with almost any PBX (probably except Nortel CS1000 perhaps), conferencing equipments, or phones that are already deployed. To address this, they are build a industry partner ecosystem. For example- In the PBX world, Nortel is developing a out-of-box integration capability with OCS. Similarly Ericsson has a mobility server in mind and Mitel is releasing a communication server built around OCS for the SMB.

Challenge 2- Unleashing the full set of capabilities: What Microsoft can offer in ideal conditions is no doubt powerful and very useful. There is no doubt in my mind that it offers significant advantages over present technologies. However to be able to enjoy the capabilities, users must not only deploy Microsoft UC products but also integrate them with their installed base. At this point in time this is a near impossibility. The success for Microsoft and the user depends on whether the users decides to replace their 'sunk-in investments' in favour of Microsoft certified products.

The assumption that users will deploy 'Microsoft or Microsoft certified products everywhere' is like a dream that every man on earth will one day walk on the moon. Nonetheless there will be deployments in pockets. Users will buy parts of the technology to fill gaps. However, they will resist discussions of replacements unless they are sweetened enough.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Forum Discussion- Unified Messaging: Buying Behavior

Dear Readers,

Apologies for not updating this space for over a month. It has been a crazy time. I am meaning to become regular again. You can help me by participating in this discussion. I am working on a report on the Unified Messaging market for which I am looking to tap into your insights. For starters, what has been your experience with Unified Messaging? If you have not yet deployed then why not?

Lets get this started. Please write-in your perspetives in the comments section.