The UC Battle Continues

In this blog, Patrick Jocelyn, MeetingZone’s Chief Commercial Officer dissects the UC landscape in a bid to determine the winners and losers in the market.

MeetingZone’s Chief Commercial Officer, Patrick Jocelyn

MeetingZone’s Chief Commercial Officer, Patrick Jocelyn

The battle is hotting up now as everyone who’s anyone (and even ones that aren’t) throw their hats into the UC ring.
These include heavyweight brands such as Virgin, Amazon (Chime), Avaya, Verizon, Mitel, PGI, BT, West – to name but a few.
But there’s no doubt in my mind that the big two – Microsoft and Cisco will scrap it out for the privilege of wearing the UC crown.
Latest predictions from research house Wainhouse, puts Microsoft ahead in terms of number of “UC” licences sold, but Cisco ahead when it comes to the number of licences actively used.

Selling licences is one thing, but getting people to use the services is another

It’s worth looking at this in a bit more depth to get a real understanding of the current marketplace and state of the two major protagonists.
Most Skype for Business licences are sold as part of Microsoft’s Office 365, where the focus is on email and productivity and Skype for Business is often a secondary factor. Enterprise voice – full service telephony via the O365 Cloud (replacing traditional PBX) is a big leap for many organisations.
There’s also still a reluctance for large enterprises to go to the Cloud and remain on premise as they want to retain control, especially following the recent security issues. That will change over time with cost and flexibility available from the Cloud being the main driver.

Microsoft have a job to do to create the awareness that the Skype for Business via the Cloud is where it’s at for Voice telephony. They are addressing this, with some success with their global TV campaign.

They’ve also been pushing their Skype Operations Framework (SOF) to increase their base of active users by focusing on adoption and deployment within the Office 365 product set.

We are seeing more and more customers looking to stretch their investment in Microsoft and O365 via adopting Skype for Business for enterprise voice to replace aging PBX’s.

Cisco’s UC licences are based around licences for WebEx and were bought for the purpose of conferencing and collaboration. It’s not surprising that there’s a higher take up and use of these services.

Cisco are putting their faith in the Spark collaboration platform for their UC play. Their partnership with Apple is evident in the sleek, intuitive design of Spark’s graphics and user interfaces with tight native integration from Apple APIs.

They too are pushing Spark globally as the way forward for UC building on Cisco’s heritage in telephony and audio/video conferencing.

Cisco or Microsoft? Both will win out

As a company we use both as part of our ongoing communications infrastructure. As a reseller of UC services we sell both, because in our view and according to reputable research houses such as Gartner and Wainhouse, Cisco and Microsoft will be the two leading players in the UC space going forward.

There are many drivers in this market that will shape a company’s decision.

It will depend on whether a company approaches its UC strategy by building on its telephony infrastructure – favouring Cisco, or from a desktop software perspective – favouring Microsoft.

It may even come down to a personal emotional preference – “Over my dead body are we going Cisco/Microsoft!”

Both are relatively easy to use, but today’s new wave of users have virtually no attention span and have grown up with an expectation that everything will be instinctively intuitive…bit of a way to go here methinks!

Plugging the gaps on both product sets

In any event, both products are still not the finished article.

The Microsoft cloud is still found wanting when it comes to some aspects of PBX functionality, such as call centre applications. That’s why we have developed our own platform for Skype for Business that does have PBX functionality built in.
Spark calling (PSTN breakout) is still not live in Europe, but will be soon.

The race to plug these gaps is on. Only then will we see who will triumph. I expect both players to be winners due to their large market share and huge legacy bases.

This should not encourage complacency and both should make sure they design and manufacture these services to provide the best possible user experience.

Let the customer decide!

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine