Last week Microsoft cranked up the hype machine and had lots of people wondering if their announcement today would be something approaching earth shaking. In the end it turned out to be about the consolidation of several communications related servers, such as Exchange and Live Communications Server, onto on Office Communications Server, available in Q2 2007. It was announced today so that IT and communications managers can start to plan architectures, hardware requirements and budgets for its implementation shortly after availability. Fundamentally it is a server product with clients that could potentially replace PBX’s. But at what cost in revamping resources, redefining business processes and defocusing an enterprise’s primary business strategy.
Two good posts I have come across:
Alec Saunders has an indepth perspective as both a former Microsoft product manager and a potential competitor to iotum’s Relevance Engine. But, as Alec says:
When the announcement came, it was a damp squib. Microsoft will rename Exchange as Communications Server, and add telephony features to Communicator, and other products. It’s an integration announcement, as opposed to a dramatic new direction — a reprise of the 1993 announcement that created Microsoft Office out of Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. Interestingly, this tactic may backfire for them this time around. Today there’s much more focus on open standards. The idea that you must buy all of your infrastructure from a single vendor just isn’t palatable for many companies today. Certainly, that is the view expressed by TMC’s Tom Keating in his coverage of today’s announcements.
Tom Keating points out that it is definitely not a consumer play. It is about installing servers into enterprises to serve as the core engine of communications services, provisioning and management. This is reinforced by Allstream’s announcement of communications services built around the LCS/Office Communicator System platform.
Consequences for Skype: Skype can continue to proceed to service their 100 million plus users with similar services provided on an open system platform with easy access to selection of services and no IT overhead. (Isn’t peer-to-peer technology, eliminating servers, what the future is about?) Skype’s Toolbars and API’s certainly allow the evolution of the Skype ecosystem in a more spontaneous manner without tying its users to any tight set of business processes. Skype will provide relevant ad hoc access to its voice and chat services in context from within any of several applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint as well as Skype for Outlook and other utility products. Its inherent ease-of-use, flexibility and “have it your way” user interface are much better suited to an amorphous consumer set who likes the freedom to “have it my way”.
Recalls the days of introducing PC’s into enterprise – where employees would slip PC’s into their “personal” business activities, bypassing IBM mainframes except for “corporate” functions. Will Skype be the “stealth” communications carrier in the OCS-activated enterprise?