SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft is late to the Unified Communications game and their offering is inadequate, say executives at Siemens Communications, a stalwart and market leader of the UC space.
Microsoft unveiled here, on Oct. 16, Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007, two products core to its UC offering and Microsofts claims of the click-to-communicate abilities of its software.
But Siemens, which claims its OpenScape solution has done so for years, is calling Redmonds solution anything but unified or open and insufficient to meet the needs of those users not on its platform, as well as some who are.
"If it is a Microsoft-based solution, you can be sure the company has some pretty tight ties into it," said David Leach, a senior consultant at Siemens Communications. "And if it doesnt say Microsoft, as far as they are concerned it doesnt exist, and its not important, and why would you use it. That approach is not helpful to customers with heterogeneous platforms."
Read more here about OpenScape for Lotus.
Siemens believes in a strategy of open unified communications, practiced in its OpenScape, where the elements are unified regardless of which vendors provide them, Leach said. Microsofts solution works only on the Microsoft platform, he said.
Microsoft, however, has also been touting the click-to-communicate ability of its solution as one of the most compelling aspects of its unified communications software.
In an interview in early October, Kim Akers, the general manager for Microsofts UC group, told eWEEK that its stack has Active Directory and presence at its core, with the different modes of communications above that—the messaging infrastructure, instant messaging, voice and conferencing—integrated together rather than being siloed as has been the case previously.
"This lets customers use any of these modes of communication from any application. Microsoft Exchange provides the core messaging infrastructure from mobile messaging to the unified messaging found in Exchange 2007, which gives users their e-mail, voice mail and faxes in a single inbox," she said.
That unified messaging then integrates with components of OCS (Office Communications Server) to give a complete voice solution, while OCS delivers conferencing through audio, video, the Web, IM and the VOIP capabilities, Akers said.
Microsoft wants to be the VOIP client on every desktop in the world, a Microsoft staffer told Siemens Grace Tiscareño-Sato, the senior global marketing manager for unified communications, during a meeting of Microsofts UC group discussing the similarities and differences in their messaging.
Siemens pushes unified communications towards SAAS. Click here to read more.
Siemens, for its part, wants to be the single view of business communications that integrates into any of the business applications currently used by the client, she said.
"So, this is a very different approach in terms of the user experience," she said. "We dont want all those features and all that presence across all the devices across the network to be stuck there when you leave the desktop. We want people to have a system that integrates all the devices and phones they already have. If they want to use the new Microsoft client, great. But they dont have to."
Another key differentiator with OpenScape is that it allows users to consume it as SAAS (software as a service) or on premises. That makes it accessible to all those small businesses lacking a Microsoft infrastructure, who could consume the OpenScape unified communications application through a hosted model, she said.
Microsofts Unified Communications solution is ready to debut. Click here to read more.
For some enterprise customers, like Ron Sindaco, the senior director of integrated networks and desktop engineering at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in Philadelphia, none of that matters. Sindaco said there is no hurry to move to unified communications and replace the existing PBX phone system as it has other, more immediate priorities, including archiving its e-mail and a Microsoft and Exchange managed service pilot program.
"The earliest we will address the UC component will be the end of 2008 or in 2009," Sindaco said. "There is no rush for us to do this. We still get a dial tone every time we pick up the phone. We are pretty much on a global Siemens 4000 PBX platform, and our Avaya and NEC platforms are also strong, so we have time."
On the collaboration front, Wyeth is planning a pilot of Microsofts SharePoint Server late next year, while an evaluation of Microsofts OCS will probably follow in 2009 and likely be completed in 2010.
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