Thursday, March 20, 2008

VoiceCon 2008 - IBM, Microsoft & Aspect

I was interested to hear a number of the announcements at Voice Con 2008. I'm not in Orlando this year but a number of friends were at the announcement and I was interested to compare their comments with the press announcements.

The Microsoft and Aspect alliance announced yesterday is on, CCF magazine: "Microsoft Corp. and Aspect Software Inc. have announced a multi-year strategic alliance to help deliver unified communications to contact centres globally".

Of the press coverage, the most positive I've seen was, who described it as "Microsoft's One-two punch" and complimented Aspect on their marketing strategy. More typical was infoworld with "Microsoft buys its way into Call Centres".

In my view is that this is an announcement similar to the Microsoft and Nortel alliance. Anything that two major players do has to be of interest, but new entrants to a market don't mean that they are necessarily breaking new ground. My suspicion is that this is good for Microsoft as it gives them access to the Aspect install base and moderately good for Aspect as it lets them defend their install base with a strong partner. In terms of reaching contact centre functionality further into the enterprise, I'm not sure it delivers as much as Avaya, Cisco, Genesys and Nortel can already offer with the various forms of 'expert advisor'.

More interesting to me were the announcements from IBM. The first was the alliance announcements with ShoreTel, VBrick Systems, NEC and Ericsson. This completes IBM's alliances, as IBM Sametime already integrates with Cisco, Avaya, Nortel and Siemens and Sametime has long looked at Voice over IP capabilities. Compared to Microsoft, this makes IBM are much more open environment for Unified Communications than Microsoft. This was reinforced by the (expected) announcement of Sametime Unified Telephony, as a type of middleware for the Unified Communications telephone environment.

In short, I think Jan Dawson writing on his blog, twinloops , summed it up nicely:

"The IBM keynote was very dry, shorn of the visionary stuff from the Avaya and Microsoft keynotes from yesterday. It focused largely on new features and capabilities IBM is adding to its Sametime portfolio. And if anything, the key message was a slightly resentful, “we’ve been doing all this for 10 years, guys - how about giving us some credit?” The lack of vision stuff was probably helpful in reinforcing the perception that IBM is perhaps the most serious about UC, and just boring enough to pull it all off."

It will be very interesting to Microsoft and IBM once again competing head to head.

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