Microsoft does VOIP

Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's Business Division (overseeing Office, SharePoint, Exchange, Dynamics, etc.), stopped by GCN today on his way to Capitol Hill. We had a wide-ranging conversation about everything from the Office 2007 release date to the fact that he hasn't been to as many Seattle Mariners baseball games this year as usual (which has to be a bummer'Raikes is part owner of the club). Look for our complete interview with Raikes in an upcoming issue of GCN and at GCN.com.

But he also let us in on the news that Microsoft and Nortel Networks were making at the exact moment we huddled around our conference table'namely that the two companies would begin collaborating on unified communications technologies. These are the types of capabilities, such as checking your e-mail from your cell phone, that will be in Exchange 2007 and the new Office Communications Server, for example.

As we spoke with Raikes, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski were unveiling their alliance, which will include R&D and sales cooperation. We think this is significant because it puts Microsoft squarely in the IP telephony market where companies like Cisco and Avaya currently lead the pack. And a big reason that's the case is because Nortel itself is no slouch. So what you've got is a company that knows software and a company that knows IP networking coming together at a time when IP telephony could use more ease-of-use innovation in order to help spur adotion.

'This is an area that's ripe for significant improvement in the way people work,' Raikes told us. 'We have e-mail, voicemail, instant messaging, SMS, we have all these communications silos and it's frustrating and ineffective. The opportunity is to take advantage of convergence and integrate the software platforms.'

The analyst community certainly sees Microsoft-Nortel as a significant force. Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with the Yankee Group, told CNET.com that Cisco better start getting more customers into VOIP 'before Microsoft comes out with something that competes directly.'

And if that doesn't happen, Kerravala seems to think enterprise VOIP adoption is in for a pause. He further told CNET.com, 'I think this could delay adoption in the voice over IP market for companies that are just now considering switching their phones to IP. There could be a lot of customers who will just wait to see what Microsoft will come out with in 2007."

We'll reserve judgement until we see some of the fruits of the Microsoft-Nortel alliance.

Posted by Brad Grimes

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