Microsoft v Cisco: the Battle for the Unified Communications Market

Alex Donnelly, portfolio manager at reseller Damovo UK has told Comms Business Magazine that he believes software and applications, rather than hardware, are going to be the key enablers in the office of the future.

“Unified communications has been one of the major buzzwords in the ICT industry over the last few years, but only now is the market starting to show signs of maturity.

Employees now have a diverse range of communications tools at their disposal, and increasingly businesses are requiring services that combine IP telephony, voicemail, email, instant messaging (IM) and other forms of collaboration into a single point on the desktop.

Unified communications services are seen as a way of bringing these voice and data services together. Such is the burgeoning growth of the market – recent estimates value it at $35-$40bn a year – it is no surprise that the battle for the corporate desktop is hotting up.

There are many niche players out there, however Microsoft and Cisco Systems stand to make the largest gains. Microsoft has already started to roll-out its first set of products and is heavily promoting the capabilities of Live Communications Server, and its successor Office Communications Server that is about to be released. Cisco has also been quite vocal about its unified communications aspirations. In addition to being the biggest manufacturer of data networking equipment, its acquisition of WebEx now provides the company with greater video teleconferencing and online collaboration capabilities.

As to who will prevail, both companies have huge customer bases so an outright winner is unlikely. What is clear is that software and applications, rather than hardware, are going to be the key enablers in the office of the future. Presence technology for example, is already starting to enable more efficient office communication and its capability is now being extended to other enterprise products such as CRM to enable greater customer service.

Unified communications technology is all about greater integration and simplicity, therefore it is important that the ICT industry is ‘unified’ in communicating the overall business benefits, rather than alienating customers with individual technology agendas. Then enterprises can truly take their communications into the 21st Century.”

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