Nortel, Microsoft chart unified communications progress

Alliance for unified communications snares 500 customers, vendors say.

Even though they fleshed out their joint strategy on the stage of "Saturday Night Live" a year ago, Nortel and Microsoft have since shown that their unified communications partnership is no joke.

Indeed, they appear to be making significant progress in their Innovative Communications Alliance (ICA). The companies say they have:

  • Lined up 500 joint ICA customers, an increase from 300.
  • Opened up two collaboration centers which have been visited by 1,100 customers.
  • Built 16 Microsoft technology centers in the last year equipped with live ICA demonstrations.
  • Established 150 ICA demonstration centers around the world, more than seven times as many as they had a year ago.
  • Has been recognized by market tracker Gartner as a unified communications leader in its "Magic Quadrant" grid of vendor and product positioning.
The companies formed ICA 18 months ago to jointly develop products combining Nortel's voice technology with Microsoft's application expertise for a unified communications market worth $26.5 billion last year and expected to near $50 billion by 2012, according to In-Stat and Wainhouse Research. Six months later, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski updated reporters and analysts with a road map of where they planned to take ICA and what they planned to release in 2007 and 2008.

Offerings announced at that time included converged office, integrated branch, Session Initiation Protocol interoperability between Nortel's Communications Server 1000 and Microsoft's Exchange Server 2007, and integration between Nortel's Multimedia Conferencing 5.0 system and Microsoft's Office Communicator 2007.

"We are very much on plan and delivering the products, which were outlined by the CEOs," says Ruchi Prasad, Nortel vice president and general manager for ICA.

General availability of more ICA products is expected to be announced next month at the VON Conference & Expo.

The ICA alliance is viewed as a deep relationship heavy on joint development and product consolidation vs. more superficial multivendor interoperability and integration strategies favored by Cisco, IBM and others. For example, Nortel and Cisco recently agreed to integrate IBM's Lotus Sametime software into their unified communications products but those are looser agreements of support rather than combined development of new products.

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