Much of Lync's success may depend on how customers look at phasing in UC&C, says Osterman Research in its white paper, "Microsoft Lync Server 2010 and the Unified Communications Market." The infrastructure that customers already have and the new capabilities they need immediately will have an influence.
"For example, should an organization use its existing PBX as the starting point and then add capabilities like video conferencing, e-mail, mobility and presence into that infrastructure? Should it begin with its e-mail system and then slowly add IM/presence, audio conferencing and then finally enterprise voice into the mix? Should it choose a middle route and preserve its e-mail and PBX infrastructures as they are now and simply "glue" them together to provide unified communications capabilities?" Osterman says.
Microsoft and its competitors are vying for control of the customer's desktops, which will be the key to which UC&C platforms businesses adopt over time, Schoeller says. Cisco's client, for example, supports the Lync backend servers. "Both product sets are lining up more and more side-by-side," he says.
In reality, most businesses use what Turek calls best of breed for communications, messaging and collaboration so they may use a mix of products from multiple vendors. With sizeable investments in PBXs and IP-PBXs, customers will be reluctant to rip and replace that gear. As a result, customers may delay decisions three to seven years as they wait for their existing infrastructure to live out its usefulness.
Microsoft touts that it has an integrated suite of collaboration and messaging tools, but its competitors such as Avaya and Cisco recognize its popularity and also integrate with Microsoft offerings, Schoeller says. "If they buy into Microsoft's suite and there's more integration out of the box, that's good," he says. "I'm not going to say it's a dramatic advantage. It's an incremental not a dramatic improvement when you stay within the suite."
Ultimately, it may make no difference which vendor has the most complete set of UC&C features, he says, because customers haven't demonstrated demand for all of them. "How many people are not using instant messaging?" he says. "You walk into video conference rooms and the camera is idle. How many people save cell phone minutes by calling from Wi-Fi hotspots?"
Vendors like to boast about long lists of features, but that is unimportant if customers don't need them. "What if they build them and users don't come?" he says.
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