Unified Strategies

Microsoft and Oracle make waves with unified communications talk.

The grand unification of all things in high tech is moving right along. Last week, it was Bill Gates and Microsoft talking up unified communications. The week before, it was Larry Ellison and Oracle continuing their quest to fuse all enterprise applications through constant use of Ellisons checkbook. While big vendors have received much of the attention, a few startups have emerged from stealth mode as well.

Microsoft is late to the unified communications game. Gates sent out an executive e-mail titled "The Age of Software-Powered Communications." Setting aside a bit of irony, in that information about a new communications platform came via creaky old e-mail, Gates note was nearly as grand a proclamation as when Microsoft discovered the World Wide Web.

"It would be hard to overstate the magnitude of the changes that are coming. Standardized, software-powered communications technologies will be the catalyst for the convergence of voice, video, text, applications, information, and transactions, making it possible to create a seamless communications continuum that extends across peoples work and home lives," Gates e-mail stated. "This will provide the foundation for new products, services, and capabilities that will change the world in profound and often unexpected ways."

While Id argue it is content rather than myriad platforms that can be world-changing, who am I to disagree with the richest (whoops, make that the second-richest) man in the world?

It is also hard to disagree with Ellisons prediction that a great unified roll-up of enterprise applications is under way. It is especially hard to disagree when its Ellison doing the rolling up.

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, "Now that Larry Ellison and Oracle have launched a $6.7 billion bid for BEA Systems, is Larry on the path to a weeping scene similar to Alexander [the Greats] once he buys up every enterprise software company in the known world?"

So you have two large vendors talking unification. Microsoft overlooks being late to the party by proclaiming that unification is the new big thing. Oracle pushes forward to prove its thesis of an enterprise roll-up by doing the roll-up itself.

My favorite recent story on unified communications deals with a startup run by a bunch of ex-Cisco executives. Agito Networks (www. agitonetworks.com) has finally come out of stealth mode with an enterprise-level product that is sufficiently smart to offer either Wi-Fi or cellular connections, depending on location. A chance to use Wi-Fi instead of running up the cell-phone bill? Now there is unification I can understand.