It is no secret that Microsoft holds a dominant position in the server and desktop OS market as well as the office applications market. However, Microsoft products need networking equipment in order to interconnect and communicate and Cisco has a dominant place in the networking and routing hardware market.
So, when Microsoft and Cisco both jumped into the unified communications arena it made some ripples. The two giants are competing head to head for dominance of the lucrative unified communications market with very different approaches and very different visions of what unified communications actually is.
Microsoft- being Microsoft- approaches unified communications from a software perspective and is working toward a goal of a pure software PBX solution and replacing the traditional PBX. Cisco, on the other hand- being Cisco- has a more network and IP telephony-centric approach to unified communications. They each approach the market from their traditional strengths.
At one point, they had pledged to agree to disagree, but work together for the common good. That rhetoric lasted about until Microsoft unveiled Office Communications Server 2007 and then the gloves were off as they slammed each other’s products and solutions and went for the proverbial jugular.
In this market though, with this economy, they appear to have a renewed partnership. There is an old Arabic proverb: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. In this case, Microsoft and Cisco have a common enemy in the economic malaise which makes them friends by association.
In order to boost customer confidence and ensure that enterprises do not delay purchasing decisions waiting for a clear winner, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Cisco CEO John Chambers have vowed to ensure that their competing systems will interoperate and work together.