Interop: Microsoft,HP Partner On UC


The companies will co-develop a unified communications suite with support for Microsoft Office Communications Server on a number of HP hardware platforms.

Expanding on their relationship, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard are forging ahead in unified communications, the companies announced at Interop on Tuesday. The move is an apparent bid to take on Cisco and IBM from several new angles, including HP's first foray into IP desk phones.

The two companies will commit up to $180 million in co-development, professional services, and joint sales and marketing of a comprehensive unified communications suite with several new products and services, plus enhanced interoperability and support for Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) on a number of HP hardware platforms.

The short-term market for UC is an uncertain one, as many companies aren't breaking ground on huge new projects unless they expect significant cost savings. Cisco's UC revenue declined 7% last quarter, but Microsoft has said that its unified communications business continues to grow.

Forrester: Rosy Forecast For UC Market

Over the longer term, it's a more sure bet. A recent Forrester Research report predicts the UC market will grow 35.9% annually between now and 2015.

HP and Microsoft have a pre-existing unified communications relationship, though smaller than the partnership being announced Tuesday. HP offers managed services for Microsoft OCS and Office Communicator and an architecture-planning tool for OCS.

A number of HP case studies and white papers published online describe how HP hardware and services support OCS, and HP has long sold services and tools to manage and deploy Microsoft SharePoint and Exchange.

The new deal, however, will significantly increase that collaboration. Joint teams will be tasked with working together on new products and services related to SharePoint, Exchange, OCS, and HP ProCurve networking products.

A significant sales and managed services element surrounds this deal. All told, both companies will train "several thousand" technical and delivery personnel to develop and sell the collaborative products and services, and will assign dedicated sales and technical staff as well.

In terms of technology, HP will certify PCs and smartphones to run OCS and will make HP Halo telepresence suites interoperable with OCS. The company also will optimize server platforms to run OCS, including the new ProCurve ONE combined server-switch. The two companies will also work to more deeply integrate OCS and SharePoint. More joint products are expected later, though it's unclear what or when.

HP also will begin to sell IP desk phones, directly taking on Cisco and others in a market that could bring significant revenue to HP if the company extends its IP desk phone strategy beyond the Microsoft deal. Marius Haas, HP's ProCurve general manager, said the company would begin selling those phones "soon."

For Microsoft, this becomes one of several unified communications partnerships aimed at creating an ecosystem around OCS. Microsoft has co-development pacts with Nortel and to a lesser degree Polycom, and has even done some work with Cisco.

Microsoft, however, says the HP deal could be the most important one. "There is no other company that has the breadth of capability that HP has," said Gurdeep Singh Pall, Microsoft's senior VP in charge of unified communications.

Nortel's Future Uncertain

It's unclear what this partnership might mean for Microsoft's existing UC partnership with Nortel. Nortel has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and has shed several business units over the past several months, and the two companies have made no recent announcements about that once-ballyhooed partnership.

The Nortel-Microsoft relationship has also been somewhat superseded in spots by new features that turn OCS into an IP PBX and therefore obviate the need for some Nortel equipment.

Though Microsoft says the Nortel relationship will continue, it's possible that has already been scaled back. "This new relationship is unique because HP and Microsoft have a common view of how software will change collaboration," Singh Pall said when asked about what happens to the Nortel relationship.

The companies plan to outline their partnership in greater detail in an Interop keynote from HP executive VP Ann Livermore, who will be joined onstage by Microsoft president Stephen Elop.


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