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Microsoft Plays UC Matchmaker

We told you last November about Microsoft's entry into unified communications and Redmond's curious relationship with rival Cisco. Well, this week, Jeana Jorgensen, director of the Unified Communications Group at Microsoft, caught up with RCPU to tell us how UC partner recruitment is going.

Microsoft has been concentrating on getting its more traditional software partners into UC, with a strong focus on Office Communications Server, Microsoft's UC technology backbone. At the same time, Jorgensen said, Redmond has been recruiting new partners from the telephony space to handle voice applications. Now, she told us, it's time to match one group with the other.

"We spent a lot of time trying to skill up our existing partners and a lot of time recruiting new voice partners," Jorgensen said. "In the next 18 to 24 months, we'll be matching infrastructure partners with telephony partners. It's almost like an internship for each other. We're partnering them up on the first several sets of customer implementations."

So, are those telephony partners coming over from, say, Cisco's side?

"I wouldn't say it's been a raid into the Cisco base," Jorgensen said. "We've been talking to the local regions [of the Microsoft Partner Program]. We had partners that knew the telephony partners already. We looked at who the regions felt were the most skilled and the most reputable."

And how are those partners responding to Microsoft's software-first (as opposed to, say, Cisco's network-first) approach to UC?

"Bringing a software-centric approach to voice is something that is new, but what we're finding is people are interested in learning," Jorgensen answered. "They're willing to start making bets on the software side as well. A lot of folks have got Avaya, they've got Cisco embedded already. We're spending a lot of time making sure our software's interoperable."

So, we asked, how flexible will Microsoft be with telephony partners that might not buy into Redmond's UC vision 100 percent and might want to hedge their bets by continuing to work with competitors?

Said Jorgensen: "We want them to know we're committed to them, and then they can make a decision on how committed they want to be. We would love them to be very committed to Microsoft, but Microsoft has partnerships with a lot of partners, and some of those partners are competitive and we expect partners to do the same thing. In the end, we want partners to give customers what they want."

And, if Microsoft has its way, software and technology partners will join together to do just that.

Posted by Lee Pender on 04/10/2008 at 1:21 PM


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