UCIF – Unified Communications interoperability is finished


Actually, what I really want to say is “Unified Communications interoperability is f–ked.”

The latest partnership agreement between Polycom and Microsoft doesn’t sound encouraging to me in terms of interoperability in the UC space. Two founding members of UCIF scratching each other’s backs. I await with great anticipation the moment when HP, Juniper Networks, and Logitech hop into the hot tub for the fun, too. The UCIF membership page hasn’t changed much since May 2010 when the forum was established.

Glaring membership absences include Avaya, Cisco, and even IBM.

This is quickly becoming the Browser War or OS War taken to another battlefront. The UC War is once again, Microsoft versus The Rest, except this time the Redmond Giant has learned its lessons and publicized its peace offering. But seriously, it doesn’t really need alliances in UCIF. We all know that Microsoft can muscle its way to put Communications Server into your enterprise. Or sneak it in, since you’re already addicted to Windows, Exchange, and Office. And other vendors will go to Microsoft to make their products work with Communications Server anyway because their customers will request it.

I’m not knocking Communications Server, especially the latest incarnation, “14,” which is due out later this year. I have seen the impressive demo at VoiceCon Orlando. I believe it’s a good and ambitious enterprise product.

What concerns me is the lack of progress in UC inoperability as a whole. UCIF was announced to great fanfare. Now it’s more like a static website. Where’s the outreach? Where are the open letters? It’s starting to look like a Microsoft fraternity, disguised as an interoperability forum.

It appears that nobody is truly serious about UC interoperability judging by the lack of movement. Earlier this year during VoiceCon Orlando, interoperability was constantly mentioned during the keynotes, workshops, and panels. Interoperability — we need it, we want it, we will do it. But alas, I think company egos have eclipsed the desire to work with one another.

And that is a shame. Because interoperability will eventually happen, but now it’ll just take longer and cost more. For everyone.

Press release from Polycom:

PLEASANTON, Calif. – Aug 09, 2010 : Polycom, Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM) has signed a multi-year, strategic global agreement with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) to deliver integrated end-to-end unified communications (UC) and to improve customers’ business productivity. Under the agreement, Polycom plans to develop and market standards-based UC solutions that span the enterprise, small-to-medium business, and government markets, that will encompass software, hardware, networking and services, and will enable customers to improve business productivity and reduce travel, telecom and IT operating costs.

Polycom and Microsoft share a vision for business productivity solutions built on standards-based platforms that work with the tools and applications people know and use today. The companies’ strategic agreement is a major step towards streamlining communications across messaging, video and voice with connected applications and devices.

“Microsoft and Polycom solutions play a critical role within our current and future unified communications strategy,” said Martin Smale, IT director at NDS, a News Corp. company. “We’re already benefiting from improved collaboration, increased productivity, and significant ROI based on our existing UC network, and we’re looking forward to leveraging the expanded offerings from two of our most valued vendors in the UC space.”

“Our research shows that nearly 70 percent of the companies considering a unified communications solution are thinking of deploying Microsoft Office Communications Server,” said Brent Kelly, senior analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research. “These enterprises need seamless integration and interoperability between Office Communicator on the desktop and personal, group, and telepresence video solutions like those offered by Polycom for executive offices, meeting suites, and conference rooms. By working together, Microsoft and Polycom are making it easier for organizations to have a true end-to-end unified communications environment, which includes high definition video.”

Offering a broad portfolio of integrated solutions spanning voice, video and application integration for Microsoft UC, this agreement makes Polycom a member of Microsoft’s key strategic global alliance for the company’s UC business. As part of this long-term strategic agreement, each company is investing in product development, sales, and marketing. Through resources, investments, and strong field engagement, Polycom and Microsoft will deliver rich, compelling UC solutions, offering customers the flexibility to deploy the features that help them lower their costs, improve productivity and meet their unique business needs.

“Microsoft and Polycom are committed to a roadmap that will deliver interoperable UC solutions with choice and innovation in video conferencing and customer devices that will help transform enterprise communications,” said Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Unified Communication at Microsoft. “By integrating video, voice, instant messaging and conferencing solutions, Microsoft and Polycom give customers the ability to be present, anytime, anywhere.”

“Polycom and Microsoft deliver a winning combination to our customers around the globe by delivering seamless, easy-to-use, high-definition communications at the click of a mouse,” said Andrew Miller, Polycom president and CEO. “Polycom is 100 percent committed to delivering best-in-breed, standards-based, fully interoperable UC solutions to market, and Microsoft is integral in helping us achieve this goal and meet the needs of our customers.”

Product Development
The roadmap entails Polycom developing a broad base of solutions for Microsoft Communications Server “14” and beyond, including:

  • New and next-generation Polycom CX series endpoints optimized for Microsoft UC, featuring Polycom’s market-leading HD video and voice technologies
  • New, innovative room-based video systems designed specifically for enabling direct integration with Microsoft Communications Server “14”
  • Additional interoperable solutions between Polycom’s existing and future video conferencing solutions

Global Polycom / Microsoft UC Go-to-Market Initiatives

  • Sales resources and training
  • Integrated marketing campaigns
  • Collaboration to develop and support channel partners
  • Polycom participation in multiple Microsoft Technology Centers around the globe, with active demos already available in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, London, and Paris
  • Global governance and cadence around voice and video UC solutions
  • Common messaging and industry presence to drive adoption of UC

To learn more about the agreement, watch this video of Gurdeep Singh Pall and Andy Miller discussing the news.

About Polycom
Polycom, Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM) is a global leader in unified communications solutions with industry-leading telepresence, video, voice and infrastructure solutions built on open standards. Polycom powers smarter conversations, transforming lives and businesses worldwide. Please visit www.polycom.com for more information or connect with Polycom on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

© 2010 Polycom, Inc. All rights reserved. POLYCOM®, the Polycom “Triangles” logo and the names and marks associated with Polycom’s products are trademarks and/or service marks of Polycom, Inc. and are registered and/or common law marks in the United States and various other countries. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

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4 thoughts on “UCIF – Unified Communications interoperability is finished

  1. From its beginning, UCIF members have been consistently working for real cross-platform interop, open standards, and independent verification. UCIF membership has grown from the initial five companies (startups are usually small, I grant you) to twenty-seven at the moment, with more continuing to pile in. That includes a variety of disciplines in the industry, but another significant indicator is that it includes key competitors within those disciplines.

    This is what I always look for in industry organizations: is market competition represented in an organization’s membership? With UCIF, independence is assured because UCIF is an open organization containing many strong members, not just two. UCIF membership includes leaders and competitors in many areas, including telepresence, in networking, in wireless, in UC. That’s what keeps it healthy and moving forward.

    There are often external alignments within an industry, but those happen independently from a forum or industry group; they don’t guide it. The Polycom-Microsoft announcement is a good example of this; these two companies may be collaborating on additional initiatives, but those are separate from (and unless they want to look like total maroons, consistent with) the directions and goals of UCIF itself.

    Incidentally, UCIF continues to recruit new members, including names you’ve mentioned, but the fastest progress will be made when UC buyers, users, and industry experts like InsideCTI begin to encourage standalone companies to join, participate in, and help lead UCIF. Assuring cross-platform interop is essential to market growth and UC usability, and the UCIF is doing everything we can, leveraging everything we can, to make this happen.

    Like

  2. From its beginning, UCIF members have been consistently working for real cross-platform interop, open standards, and independent verification. UCIF membership has grown from the initial five companies (startups are usually small, I grant you) to twenty-seven at the moment, with more continuing to pile in. That includes a variety of disciplines in the industry, but another significant indicator is that it includes key competitors within those disciplines.

    This is what I always look for in industry organizations: is market competition represented in an organization’s membership? With UCIF, independence is assured because UCIF is an open organization containing many strong members, not just two. UCIF membership includes leaders and competitors in many areas, including telepresence, in networking, in wireless, in UC. That’s what keeps it healthy and moving forward.

    There are often external alignments within an industry, but those happen independently from a forum or industry group; they don’t guide it. The Polycom-Microsoft announcement is a good example of this; these two companies may be collaborating on additional initiatives, but those are separate from (and unless they want to look like total maroons, consistent with) the directions and goals of UCIF itself.

    Incidentally, UCIF continues to recruit new members, including names you’ve mentioned, but the fastest progress will be made when UC buyers, users, and industry experts like InsideCTI begin to encourage standalone companies to join, participate in, and help lead UCIF. Assuring cross-platform interop is essential to market growth and UC usability, and the UCIF is doing everything we can, leveraging everything we can, to make this happen.

    Like

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