Cisco has drawn a battleline between its collaboration toolkit and the recently expanded alliance between HP and Microsoft to build a joint unified communications platform.
In a speech during the Cisco Partner Summit, senior vice-president of Software Group, Don Proctor, criticised HP and Microsoft’s approach as lacking the networking credibility of its own offerings. He also claimed customers would be reluctant to make “forklift upgrade” from Cisco technology to adopt the pair’s solution set.
“This is about taking the business direct and cutting partners out of the equation,” Proctor told Cisco partners at the Summit. However, Proctor did not qualify why this would be the case.
Last month, HP and Microsoft announced they would spend $US180 million over the next four years developing common products and services addressing unified communications. Work is centred around HP’s ProCurve networking line-up and Microsoft Office Communication Server, SharePoint and Exchange. The pair’s plans to build, sell and implement unified communications are an extension of their longstanding Frontline agreement. HP and Cisco both integrate and compete on these solution sets, but in recent months HP has been positioning itself as a competitor in the unified communications arena.
Elaborating further on the comments in a media briefing, chairman and CEO, John Chambers, said that while Cisco perceived Microsoft primarily as a strategic partner, it viewed HP as a competitor.
“We have never had a $US110 billion competitor before,” he said.
Cisco executive vice-president of worldwide sales, Rob Lloyd, added the Microsoft/HP announcement proved the integral nature of the network in future communications. He also claimed HP was likely to take a more direct sales approach.
“I find it interesting that Microsoft has recognised the role of the network, but HP’s networking assets will add little value to the Microsoft UC offerings,” he said.
Cisco has been heavily promoting its collaboration solutions for the last couple of years, driven by its acquisition of WebEx. Late last year, it announced it was piloting a new WebEx channel program incorporating rebate commissions for partners registering and closing deals. The program coincided with the launch of its WebEx Connect offering, which added more messaging, presence and buddy up applications.
The networking giant estimates collaboration to be a $US34 billion opportunity and the fastest growing area of its business. During his Partner Summit speech, Proctor claimed collaboration represented the biggest market transition in a decade.
“Collaboration has gone from voice to video, and is now an economic imperative for our customers,” he said. “Everyone is cutting expenses, staff travel budgets, embracing telecommuting and even holding customer events online. Business is going from physical to virtual...collaboration gives partners a seat at the strategy table and opens up new dialogue from capacity to capability.
“Collaboration in the next decade will be what ebusiness was in the 1990s.”
Nadia Cameron travelled to Cisco Partner Summit as a guest of Cisco.