Microsoft, Polycom Announce UC Partnership

Microsoft and Polycom are entering an alliance that will include jointly developing, selling and marketing unified communications products based on Polycom endpoints and Microsoft's Communications Server 14.

Polycom, which already has partnerships with the likes of Hewlett-Packard and Avaya as it ramps up its competition with Cisco Systems in the unified communications space, is now hooking up with Microsoft.

The two companies announced a partnership Aug. 9 in which they will jointly develop and market integrated UC solutions that will include endpoints from Polycom and Microsoft's Communications Server 14 technology.

The combination of Microsoft's CS 14 offering and Polycom's CX series endpoints will give businesses a tightly integrated UC environment that brings together voice, data, video and application integration into what the companies say is a seamless package that runs from the desktop to boardrooms through high-end telepresence products.

UC is being touted by vendors, analysts and businesses alike as a way to increase employee productivity while reducing travel expenses. However, adoption is relatively low because many of the offerings on the market are "disjointed," according to Ashima Singhal, group product manager of UC partner marketing at Microsoft.

Microsoft and Polycom are looking to change that, Singhal said in an interview with eWEEK.

"It will help change the way we think about unified communications," Singhal said.

The Microsoft-Polycom deal will touch on everything from product innovation and development to sales and go-to-market strategies, said Singhal and Mark Roberts, vice president of partner marketing at Polycom.

The two said there wasn't a specific dollar amount that was being tied to the partnership, but Roberts said it could be in the tens of millions of dollars. The two companies are still laying out plans, he said.

Polycom will optimize its CX series of endpoints-including the CX200 and 300 desktop phones, CX500 and 700 IP phones, and CX3000 IP conference phone-for Microsoft's CS 14 and later versions. The two companies also will develop room-based video systems that will be directly integrated with CS 14.

The interoperability between the two companies' products will be expanded to include future offerings.

On the marketing side, there will training and resources about the joint products for salespeople, integrated marketing campaigns, support for channel partners and common messaging aimed at UC adoption.

Polycom also will be present in Microsoft Technology Centers around the world.

The partnership comes at a time when the UC market is set to grow rapidly, according to industry analysts. Forrester expects the market to hit about $14.5 billion by 2015, Roberts said.

"Businesses are still trying to do more with less, and doing more with less doesn't include jumping on a plane [for business meetings]," he said.

Major players are looking for traction in the market. In particular, Cisco is expanding its capabilities, as illustrated by its acquisition earlier in 2010 of telepresence equipment vendor Tandberg.

Polycom has responded through partnerships. In January, Polycom announced deals with Juniper Networks and Siemens Enterprise Communications Group. Polycom in March announced an alliance with Avaya, and three days later announced a UC partnership with Hewlett-Packard.