Microsoft Playing Catch-Up

by Bruce Stewart

With all the positive news about how Bill Gates is planning on spending the rest of his life and fortune, Microsoft's announcements about the upgrade to its communications platforms got a little lost in the mainstream press. But not out here in VoIP-land, where the news coming out of the Microsoft Unified Communications Group Strategy Day was met with plenty of scathing analysis - the overall sentiment seeming to be that this is a prime example of "too little too late".

Alec Saunders does an excellent job of summarizing the latest MS plans with regards to unified communications and placing them in the context of what else is happening in this area. As an MS alum and co-founder of iotum, a company steeped in unified communications, Alec is emminently qualified to speak to these issues. And he doesn't hold back many punches:

When the announcement came, it was a damp squib. Microsoft will rename Exchange as Communications Server, and add telephony features to Communicator, and other products. It's an integration announcement, as opposed to a dramatic new direction -- a reprise of the 1993 announcement that created Microsoft Office out of Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. Interestingly, this tactic may backfire for them this time around. Today there's much more focus on open standards. The idea that you must buy all of your infrastructure from a single vendor just isn't palatable for many companies today.

Alec doesn't need to point out that the kind of technology MS is promising to develop is actually already here now, and companies like his iotum are already deeply entrenched in unified communications and are making better use of presence information with products and services that customers can start using today. Many others are doing that for him. And yesterday's announcement that hosted IP-PBX vendor Versature will include iotum's relevance engine as a feature for its small and medium business customers was timed perfectly to hit that point home.

Tom Keating also seems underwhelmed with the news around the MS unified communications announcements and like many observers were surprised that the MS efforts seem only focused on the enterprise:

Unfortunately, it appears as though this solution is strictly targetting the enterprise and completely ignoring the consumer market. Although it does support SIP, it will not support all SIP based VoIP networks, but instead only connect to Microsoft's proprietary (and commercial) Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 platform.


Simon Hibbs
2006-06-28 01:57:41
Too little too late? Don't bet on it, in a few yars time Mitch Tulloch will be claiming that "The modern telephone industry was basicaly invented by Microsoft" ;)
Emmanuel Proulx
2006-07-10 12:56:12
MS or anyone else DOESN'T have to invent anything completely new in order to change their strategy. Google didn't invent search engines. But they sure made them better. I think what's exciting is the way one can use existing services and put them together in a new way to create cool new ones.
Example: the Microsoft/Ubiquity "I'm Lost" application. Check out this Podcast that just came out on the topic; it's worth it: