Microsoft, Nortel form alliance on unified communications

A joint R&D team will work in Redmond, Microsoft says

Microsoft Corp. and Nortel Networks Corp. announced a strategic Innovation Communications Alliance today that aims to deliver unified communications products and services globally.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski are set to discuss the announcement at 12 p.m. (EST) today, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman.

In an online description of the announcement, Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business division, said the two companies will partner immediately on research and development efforts.

The companies will collaborate on development of products for large companies as well as for wireless and wire-line carriers, Raikes said. Nortel also will have developers working alongside the unified communications team in Redmond, Wash.

He said the technologies will include products that complement the Microsoft Unified Communications Platform, including contact center applications, mission-critical telephony functions, advanced mobile capabilities and data networking infrastructure.

Unified communications is a term used by analysts and vendors to describe the combination of communications modes such as wired and wireless and methods such as e-mail, voice, video and instant messaging (IM).

Said Raikes: "Workers today struggle with too much communication in too many places." He noted that they have office and home-office phone numbers, fax numbers, cellular phone numbers, IM accounts and e-mail addresses and that "they want more control over the communications."

He said Microsoft's vision for unified communications will be software-based and recognize the need to integrate PCs with desktop phones for functions such as recognizing a person's "presence" or availability. Presence can be indicated, for instance, by the ability to see an icon for someone working in a remote location who is available for contact through voice, e-mail, IM or other modes.

"It's a win-win for both companies," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Inc. in Boston. "Microsoft understands the user experience, and Nortel understands voice and networks. So they'll be merging the desktop experience with traditional telephony.

"Microsoft has a definite monopoly on the desktop," he said, "but historically, you can question their software quality. Nortel is a very good communications and engineering company, and the combination of the two works to both companies' strengths."

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon