We’ve been working on becoming a Voice Ready Partner with Microsoft for a couple of months now.  We’re finally fully certified (www.ftdata.com) and I’ve learned some things about how Microsoft is approaching the market and from my perspective it looks like the Enterprise UC market is going to be very interesting in a year or so.

Cisco took the approach in the beginning of aiming squarely at PBX replacement.  They developed the CallManager platform into something pretty solid and broad in scope.  In the last couple of years they’ve been working from the middle, towards the edge with app development.  What I mean by that is they’ve been growing apps like Presence and Mobility now that the PBX side of things is pretty much wrapped up.

Microsoft is taking the opposite approach.  Microsoft has been growing their UC product from the outside in.  First with LCS and now with OCS they have a very stable and broad product that does a great job of supporting IM with voice and video.  The PBX side of things needs some development though.

Microsoft is making it clear that they intend on owning that space, primarily by trying to change the way people do business with voice.  I think they have a long way to go but their strategy will get them there.

Consider this.  I was at a customer some months ago and saw them running the Office Communicator client.  I asked what motivated them to do that.  The answer was simple.  It was basically free since they already had an Enterprise Agreement.  Sure, those costs might be kind of hidden but the customer impression is that they are already paying for it so they might as well use it.  Oh, and a $50 eyeball camera and they had video with another office on the other side of the country.  Microsoft will make inroads for this reason alone.  When they finally strengthen some of the other pieces like PSTN access and call center functionality they’ll already have a huge installed base of Communicator clients waiting for those added features.  It’ll be harder and harder to pick up that Cisco phone sitting on the desk.

I’ll be at the Microsoft UC Partner Symposium in Houston on Monday.  I don’t have a lot of free time but if you read this blog and are interested in meeting up to talk about Voice, feel free to drop me a line.