Microsoft Takes on Telephony, Cozies Up with HP
- By Carolyn April
I was reminded of one blindingly obvious truth last week: Steer clear of political
references -- no matter how neutral -- if you wish to avoid ticking people off.
Judging by the earful of e-mail I got for a rather tame (if I do say so myself)
reference to empty GOP ballrooms on election night, an IT column isn't all that
different from the average holiday dinner-table gathering.
My mailbag below speaks for itself on the political snit. But it also includes
some insightful comments about Microsoft's plans to flood the market with products
in 2007. Many of you are overwhelmed yet preparing for the onslaught; others
are licking your chops. Then there are those of you taking a hard line about
not implementing Vista anytime soon; perhaps not before Service Pack 1, which
is likely to come earlier rather than later if adoption comes slowly.
One of the 2007 products took a few steps forward this week. Office Communication
Server 2007 entered
its third beta and, for the first time, includes key voice over IP capabilities
for testers to explore. Microsoft put the software in the hands of 2,500 IT
professionals and partners, some of whom will be running the unified communications
solution in production then providing feedback to the folks in Redmond. One
of the new version's major enhancements the company is touting is the ability
for rich media -- audio, video, etc. -- to traverse firewalls, a feature roundly
criticized as missing in the current 2005 iteration of the communication server.
This is Microsoft's most significant stab at unified communications, with this
server in particular looming as one of the cornerstones to its broader collaboration
strategy. The collaboration story is muddy, as you can see in this
recent Redmond article. Microsoft is marketing Office Communication Server
2007, which is due out in the second quarter of next year, as a way for customers
to get VoIP through software -- without having to rip and replace current legacy
telephony installations like traditional PBXes. The company is entering a realm
well-populated by networking giants such as Cisco and, while Microsoft partners
with many of these players, it remains to be seen whether it will be able to
move ahead of them in the market anytime soon.
Speaking of partnerships, Microsoft
joined forces this week with Hewlett-Packard in a sweeping agreement that
will see the two invest $300 million over three years to spawn a major Microsoft-focused
solutions practice inside of HP. It looks to me like HP is putting an army of
Microsoft-ready consultants on the street. All told, HP's planning to grow that
arm of its services business from 22,000 Microsoft-trained resources to 30,000
and will participate with Microsoft in joint R&D efforts aimed at creating
production-ready solutions. Not surprisingly, the solutions are going to focus
on those new markets Microsoft is so keen to take over, including the aforementioned
collaboration and unified communications, along with business intelligence and
business process integration.
After the Novell deal a few weeks back, it's clear that Microsoft is shoring
up friends to help ensure that next year's onslaught of products will enjoy
the influence of key services organizations in getting to market. And it can't
hurt HP's hardware sales to see Vista adoption take off promptly. The question
is, who will Microsoft cozy up to next? It is going to need the help.
Who is Microsoft's next big ally in the 2007 product rollout? Share your thoughts
with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carolyn April is the executive editor of features for Redmond magazine.