Microsoft, IBM see apps as key to IP voice

Vendors speak on VoIP and its driving infrastructure at last week's VoiceCon conference

On the other hand, Gotta says, Microsoft is looking end-to-end, as evidenced by the plans of Royal Dutch Shell, and traditional voice vendors are realizing they have to play with Microsoft.

"Cisco, IBM and Microsoft are still looking at each other and trying to figure out how close does Cisco get to IBM, how much can Cisco integrate with Microsoft and how much does Cisco want to drive its own destiny," says Gotta.

Companies such as Nortel, which is deeply partnering with Microsoft, and Avaya already have defined their futures and are moving forward.

Avaya CEO Louis D'Ambrosio and Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski both said during presentations at VoiceCon that the majority of their respective companies' R&D efforts are focused on software -- with 75 percent to 80 percent of their development dollars going to writing code, rather than developing circuit boards, line cards and handsets. Avaya is working to make voice and messaging applications into distributed services, applets and software objects that can be woven into other enterprise applications, such as ERP or CRM platforms.

Nortel's Zafirovski said his company is pushing carrier-grade SIP into the enterprise, while transforming its enterprise business to software and applications.

Microsoft, which also partners with Avaya, is not being shy about the fact that its partners will have to change with the times.

"We believe, over time, you can be totally based on Office Communications Server," Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Unified Communications Group told Network World in an interview. "For now, we also want to help customers deal with missing features they may not have, or to help along those who are saying, 'Oh, can I trust my voice entirely to Microsoft?' They can keep their current system in place, and put Office Communicator next to it, and slowly phase out the old one."

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