Microsoft slams hardware-based unified communications

Software giant Microsoft branded existing hardware-based systems as out-of-date, while re-iterating its pledge to reach 100 million users within the next three years for its unified communication platform

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  May 24, 2008

Software giant Microsoft branded existing hardware-based systems as out-of-date, while re-iterating its pledge to reach 100 million users within the next three years for its unified communication platform.

Microsoft's worldwide director for unified communications Erich Gebhardt announced the target during a recent trip to the UAE, quoting the company's CEO.

"There's a pretty famous saying from Steve Ballmer: the target is to get 100 million users within the next three years. That's the target," he said.

Gebhardt who has met with a number of prominent customers including the UAE's RTA, said that hardware-based devices sold by rival vendors lack a modern edge and have not significantly improved the customer telephony experience.

"I worked 17 years at Siemens and I must tell you that hardware-based communications product do not really look very modern to me. We don't really care what the others are doing here. Even though they are bigger in this so-called UC space, it's still a separate infrastructure, and we don't believe in a separate UC hardware market in the future," he explained.

"If you go to customers of other vendors which are called UC, they say: ‘Before I had a PC and a phone, now I still have a PC and a phone. So what?' This will not be our path to success. This is Microsoft - we believe in the power of software," he added.

The Redmond-based company entered the UC fray last year with a rebranded product, Office Communications server 2007 aimed at both SMB and enterprise organisations. At the time, Chris Capossela, Microsoft's corporate vice president of its product management group commented in an exclusive interview with ACN that the existing end-user experience was quite poor, with too many pieces required to make UC work.

"You have your own database for the users, your own servers, your own devices - just for a phone? We say, have your standard applications and with a right mouse click, no matter if you want to send an e-mail or talk to somebody, it's always the same thing," said Gebhardt.

He also admitted that Microsoft does not have a specific UAE strategy in place yet for unified communications.

"What we have here in Dubai are two super technology specialists already in place. From an overall strategy - and this comes from the product design - Microsoft UC strategy is different to other vendors and really made as a inbuilt piece of the overall Microsoft office system," said Gehbardt.

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