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We’re always interested in your opinions so please, share as often as you’d like. Here are some of the best comments (we think.)

pgraham on Lippis Report Issue 65: Nortel Marries Up

As a VOIP reseller, Nortel was at first an obvious choice due to their market presence and voice experience. However, after assessing their channel organization (poor), product line (BCM v1.0) and development capability (no cash) we selected other vendors.

Microsoft has an excellent channel program and support system but a poor record in telecommunications (they are nowhere in fax and major VOIP vendors are porting to Linux away from Windows OS).

Your point that it is a low risk play for Microsoft and a last chance play for Nortel is a good one. Microsoft+Nortel vs. Others? My bet is on Others.

Todd Simons on “Lippis Report Issue 63: Microsoft Says Game On to IP Telephony Players

Good article. We are a Microsoft Gold Certified ISV Partner and are already reaping the benefits of what you refer to as the “3rd phase of IP Telephony” However, I find it curious that, contrary to this article, at the recent Microsoft World Partner Conference I attended, and indeed at every trade show where I´ve seen the Microsoft Live Communications Server pod, they are using a Mitel phone system and sets with the Mitel LCS Gateway to demo the convergence of voice and Microsoft business applications.
Regards, Todd Simons

paulmcdevitt on “Lippis Report Issue 63: Microsoft Says Game On to IP Telephony Players

Good article and a lot of food for thought – as I think Microsoft wanted.

Couple of comments though:

1. Microsoft made this announcement in order to put off acquisitions in the short term. It is way too hazy to be about anything material at his point.

2. Most Microsoft product´s are below par for some time and I don´t see that being any different here. (Of course that doesn´t negate the fact that whatever they do will still have a huge impact on the market.) So companies shouldn´t expect anything solid until 2008. (To your point, I guess on not putting off acquisitions now.)

3. Given some of the data that is available, it is unlikely that the initial offer – and for some time – will be attractive to anything but the smaller customer.

4. Telephony and UC are applications and have been for some time. The fact that they had to be tethered to hardware – and proprietary hardware and software – to deliver more sophisticated features was a reality of the technology of the time. The move to IP helped migrate it away from that model. But when people indicate that “you can do no more now than with TDM” belies the fact that you could do an awful lot with TDM and this has been enhanced.

5. The real meaning is not that it wasn´t an application before but that there is more of a possibility to hook into complete business processes. Avaya and Cisco have been telling this story for a while (Nortel, meanwhile haven´t.) And larger enterprises use Siebel, Peoplesoft, SAP, etc. So Microsoft´s attempt to replace the enterprise with a complete Microsoft enterprise solution will have to deal with those players and IT executives who will need to be shown how this will improve things. Meanwhile SOA and SONA is more towards their needs. This is more a battle line between SOA/SONA and Microsoft. Would Microsoft have made the announcement at this time if SOA/SONA had not been touted so much lately?

6. The notion that people don´t need more than 7 features was the same mantra from companies that entered the IP PBX game. Shore-Tel foremost. But even they realised – as did Cisco – that they had to beef up their capabilities – and quickly to survive. The reality is that, like enterprise application, each user might use a different sub-set of features. 10 people may use 7 features but they are not necessarily the same. In addition, many features are not always seen by the end-user but required and configured by the administrator to get the most out of the system.

7. SIP is being designed by committee and the constituents have different needs and backgrounds. It is slow in evolving features and it might end up being a compromise standard – much as ATM was. MIcrosoft does not even use SIP for any of its integrations but TAPI. It only uses SIP for presence. ALL the other vendors do more with SIP than Microsoft to date. So, while it sounds good to mention SIP, because it implies openness and interoperability, you are correct in thinking they will not open their presence capability to many others.

8. The bulk of the ideas mentioned, while sounding great at a high level, have all been done before – nothing new. Yes, it all comes from one vendor and on that basis would be integrated – but the initial ideas were really a bit of yawn. How someone could call this something new over what has been done in TDM I don´t know. All of these applications are around now.

9. Most of the telephony vendors have moved to a license model as they have feared losing their hardware market. In some cases not, they have looked forward to a software only model a al Microsoft with the view that they can achieve higher margins. And SIP does promise the notion of high end functionality and cross-vendor interoperability. BUt just because Microsoft jumps into this market will not suddenly have enterprises running to buy their hardware – unless it is cheap. (As in cheaper than the stuff from Avaya, Nortel, etc, which shouldn´t be hard – but the customers already buy cheap USB headsets for use with their softphones.)

10. With the recent shake out in the overall market, the two major players who have the most to think about are Siemens and Nortel. So while this announcement may help them, I am still unsure about their long term viability. Nortel in particular have been struggling to position its MCS 5100 and it is more likely that this functionality will be emebedded in the signalling server on the CS1000 anyway – regardless of the Microsoft announcement. And Siemens have not moved a lot of OpenScape. This may help. By the way, check what Microsoft uses for its communications platform. Not Siemens nor Nortel (nor Microsoft either.) Be interesting to ask if all Microsoft employees will be using this product in 2007 as their only mode of telephony? I doubt it very much. Good for the goose but not the gander thing.

11. While Avaya does have a strong DevConnect program, the challenge is to get resellers to package these solutions. From a reseller perspective, it is tough to get to know and support every application out there. (One of the positives for Microsoft as these apps will be based on a core foundation.) Even so, many of these applications or customisations are hard to keep current and harder in the Microsoft world – from a support or customer perspective. Small businesses have a hard time keeping up with technology and cannot afford to keep upgrading or changing the way they do things to accomodate the vendors. (Neither can the big boys really but they tend to buy packaged applications and pay for the support and upgrades.) So the whole developer thing sounds great at the marketing level but does not always drive huge business.

12. How much of today´s Word, Excel, Powerpoint do people use? Not much. Sure accounting will use a lot of Excel. Sales and marketing Powerpoint. Most use Word. But I am stunned at how little, actually, most people know and use. Adding more servers and applications that will have advanced communications features will not take off overnight. If people don´t use many of their TDM´ features today, is it because that is all they want? If that was the previous argument over 7 features, why will they want to use or buy LCS, Roundtable, etc? In fact, because Microsoft has remarkably underperformed outside of the core OS and Office suite, it needs to make a hullabaloo over this to get some exposure. All the innovation over the last 15 years came from non Microsoft companies. Since Microsoft now dominates the core OS and Office market we see little new. All the neat apps come from elsewhere. So if Microsoft dominates here, we are likely to see less innovation. Developers aside. (See point 11.)

13. Is the timing of this announcement related to the fact that nearly all the telephony vendors have finally migrated to Linux. When IP Telephony was first introduced most new enrants got into the game on Microsoft. Is this Microsoft´s way of moving people back?

14. The one thing that is true is that the telephony market had its challenges over the last 5 years and had hit the doldrums and only Y2K and Call Centre spurred sales. So any announcement like this is good for the market.

Sorry for the long comment but you do right great commentaries – the broadest view on this topic I´ve yet to see – and so it spurs a lot of thought. Keep up the great reports.