Cisco and Microsoft: Clash of the UC Titans
Who's on top in the red-hot unified communications (UC) segment? That depends
on how you define "top."
According to market watcher Infonetics Research, both Cisco Systems Inc. and
Microsoft Corp. are tops, overall, in the UC space, with Avaya and Nortel also
coming on strong. In fact, buyers say that Cisco and Microsoft are their preferred
Unified Messaging and Communicator suppliers.
But the struggle is just beginning, Infonetics said, and no single vendor has
an ineradicable purchase on UC market leadership.
More to the point, Infonetics said, UC leadership could hinge on which vendor's
vision of next-gen unified communications ultimately wins out.
"It's no secret that Microsoft is predicting the death of the PBX, to be replaced
by a software-based communication approach like OCS 2007, but we didn't find
many people convinced that this is yet the way to go," said Matthias Machowinski,
directing analyst for enterprise voice and data at Infonetics, in a statement.
"What we're seeing instead is companies keeping their IP PBXs, and layering
unified communications applications on top."
Microsoft isn't putting all of its eggs in one basket, of course. "Microsoft
is seeing early success by leveraging their leadership in e-mail messaging and
desktop environments," Machowinski said. "The incumbent IP telephony players
are also faring well," he continued, stressing that the competitive outlook
in the still-gestating UC landscape remains fluid.
"There are still opportunities ahead for vendors looking to get into or ahead
in the unified communications market, because many buyers don't yet know who
they will be buying from two years from now," Machowinski said.
Infonetics recently asked survey respondents to rate a quintet of UC vendors
-- Avaya, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Nortel -- on a range of issues, including
reliability, value, innovation, pricing and features. No single vendor came
out on top, according to Infonetics; while Cisco's solution earned high marks
for reliability and low marks for pricing, Microsoft's received poor ratings
for reliability and high ratings for financial stability. And no one fared well
on the interoperability front.
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.