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March 9, 2007

Showdown at the Unified Communications Corral

Posted by David Hunter at 11:14 AM ET.

Rik Turner sets the stage for the upcoming showdown in unified business communications at Computer Business Review Online in IBM and Cisco team against Microsoft and Nortel:

IBM and Cisco have announced an alliance bringing together Big Blue’s Sametime collaboration platform with Cisco’s Unified Communications portfolio, in an obvious face-off against Microsoft and Nortel’s Innovative Communications Alliance.

The two industry heavyweights unveiled the initiative a the VoiceCon Spring event in Orlando, Florida, describing plans to deliver something they call the Unified Comms and Collaboration (UC2) Client Platform, which they call “an open set of application programming interfaces offered by IBM as a subset of Lotus Sametime… along with communication APIs by Cisco to access comms functionality such as voice and video services.”

The partners intend to drive app development for their joint offerings by fostering the use of the Eclipse Java development environment and the Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGi) framework, both of which IBM has been heavily involved in over the years.

Beyond that, however, they’ll be doing their own app dev work, delivering “specific customer offerings including a joint solution based on the new client platform and a set of plug-ins that bring together the communications and collaboration capabilities of both companies.”

The UC2 Client Platform will now form the basis of both companies’ comms and collaboration clients, IBM saying Sametime 7.5 is already based on it, while Cisco committed to porting its newly launched Unified Personal Communicator client in future versions. Among other companies expressing support for the new platform from the get-go were Nokia and RIM, both of whose handset will presumably be able to house the client, as well as Citrix and Presidio, which is a Cisco partner for its high-end TelePresence conferencing portfolio.

In addition to the UC2 client serving as the basis for joint offerings, IBM and Cisco also promised “communication and collaboration products from both companies” as well as “expanded go-to-market activities including Cisco selling Lotus Sametime and IBM selling Cisco Unified Communications Manager [i.e. the Cisco IP PBX], Cisco Unity [the voicemail platform] and Cisco Unified MeetingPlace [its conferencing platform].” There is also a services dimension with IBM Global Technology Services offering assessment through to implementation on the combined portfolio.

There are many more details on the partners’ planned offerings by following the link, but here’s the nut:

And so the battle lines are drawn in unified communications, with Microsoft and its operating system and Real-Time Collaboration Suite, going in alongside Nortel’s CS1000 IP PBX and its MCS5100 app server for conferencing, and IBM hooking up with Cisco for an equivalent offering, with a greater open source component from Big Blue and Cisco increasingly embracing Linux.

It is, in essence, the Notes vs. Exchange battle writ large, and with Microsoft and Cisco moving increasingly into competition in a variety of other areas such as network access control, it is only natural that the networking heavyweight should seek an alliance with IBM to present as broad a front as ICA promises.

Finally, on a related note, Microsoft announced a March beta for Office Communications Server 2007:

In a keynote address at VoiceCon Spring 2007, Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft Corp.’s Business Division, today predicted that in just three years, the average voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) solution for business will cost half what it does today, as VoIP systems move from hardware to software. Raikes also predicted that in the same time frame, 100 million people — twice the number of current business VoIP users — will have the ability to make phone calls from Microsoft® Office applications.

Outlining Microsoft’s progress toward delivering its enterprise voice solutions, Raikes also announced that Microsoft will distribute the public beta-test version of Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft’s VoIP and unified communications server, and Office Communicator 2007, Microsoft’s unified communications client, to millions of testers later this month.

There had been a private beta back in December.

Filed under Beta and CTP, Cisco, Coopetition, IBM, Microsoft, Nortel, Office, Office Communications Server

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3 Responses to “Showdown at the Unified Communications Corral”

  1. Cisco buys WebEx, target Microsoft -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] It’s all part of Cisco’s Unified Communications push which has gotten a lot of notice lately and not coincidentally Unified Communications is the name of the Microsoft Business Division group charged with cornering the business communications market and whose Office Live Meeting Product (created from the 2003 acquisition of PlaceWare) is reported to be number 2 in the Web conferencing market and looks to be clearly in the path of the steamroller Filed under Office, Acquisitions, Coopetition, Office Communications Server, Cisco, Live Meeting, WebEx, Microsoft [...]

  2. Microsoft releases public beta of Office Communications Server -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] As promised earlier in March, Microsoft today released a public beta of Office Communications Server and related products: [...]

  3. Microsoft and Cisco promise again to compete but interoperate -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Today, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Cisco CEO John Chambers participated in an odd event hosted by PBS talker Charlie Rose that was apparently meant to allay customer fears that the competition between the two for the business communications business would divide the landscape into two non-interoperable warring camps. [...]

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