Unified Communications Nation

November 16, 2009  5:15 PM

Videoconferencing consolidation continues: Logitech buys LifeSize

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Lost in the hoopla from last week’s news that HP bought 3Com was a much smaller deal in the high definition (HD) videoconferencing market. PC accessory company Logitech has bought LifeSize Communicaitons, a six-year-old vendor of HD desktop videoconferencing and room-based telepresence products for $405 million.

Logitech is best known as a manufacturer of peripheral devices for PCs, especially keyboards and mice. With only a line of standard-definition webcams, Logitech’s specialty is not enterprise video.

With LifeSize, Logitech graduates from selling peripheral devices to consumers and small businesses to selling an enterprise solution. It’s a whole different ballgame. In addition to endpoint devices, LifeSize sells HD videoconferencing infrastructure, such as multipoint control units (MCUs), gateways and security devices.

In the wake of Cisco’s attempt to acquire Tandberg (a deal which might be collapsing), LifeSize probably recognized that competing in the enterprise video market will require the backing of a larger corporate partner.  Logitech might have the money to boost LifeSize’s marketing budget, but it doesn’t bring the right sales channel to the table.

The most logical next step for Logitech will be to approach key unified communications competitors to Cisco like Avaya, Siemens and Microsoft to build up video interoperability partnerships.

November 5, 2009  7:47 PM

Google Social Search getting closer?

Leigha Leigha Cardwell Profile: Leigha

While not true for many technology segments, bloggers in the unified communications space often post pragmatic, insightful and useful information. However, finding specific information when you need it in the blogosphere is a challenge, but one that Google is trying to address.

Google Social Search is a new experimental feature designed to help users customize searches, including blogs, reviews and other content publicly available within your social circle.

Continued »

November 2, 2009  8:59 AM

Fixed-mobile convergence vendor DiVitas supports iPhone, Android and Blackberry

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

In the realm of dual-mode fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), one of the biggest barriers to broad adoption is the narrow scope of smartphone platforms supported. Agito and DiVitas, the two top independent dual-mode FMC vendors have struggled to come together with some of the platform makers… A big stumbling block for adoption has long been the lack of dual-mode FMC support for Research In Motion’s BlackBerry platform, still THE enterprise smartphone platform of choice.

In June we reported that Agito finally managed to add BlackBerry suppoprt, expanding beyond the 40 or so Nokia Symbian and Windows Mobile devices it had already been supporting.

DiVitas, on the other hand had been quiet for awhile on the BlackBerry front, limited to Windows Mobile and Nokia E series and N series phones.

Today DiVitas announced a huge expansion of the mobile platforms it supports. It has developed a native client and a web-based client that extends its FMC technology to the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android operating systems.

Check out this PDF data sheet on the new Divitas offerings. You’ll see snapshots of what DiVitas’ FMC client looks like on each mobile platform.

October 30, 2009  7:28 PM

Is Cisco backing out of Tandberg deal?

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Bloomberg is reporting that Cisco might walk away from its agreement to buy Tandberg. As we mentioned two weeks ago, A large group of shareholders have balked at the $3 billion offer Cisco and Tandberg’s executives and boards of directors agreed upon. Cisco’s Tandberg deal is contingent on it being able to acquire 90% of the company’s stock. Twenty-one shareholders who own 24% of the company say Cisco’s offer is too low.

Bloomberg is citing a “person familiar with the transaction” as the anonymous source for its report.  Financial analyst Martin Hoff at Arctic Securities ASA told Bloomberg that Cisco probably won’t just walk away. Instead, the anonymous claim that Cisco is contemplating a pullout from the deal is probably just a scare tactic. “It’s probably smart of them to send some signals to scare the shareholders into accepting the offer,” he told Bloomberg.

If Cisco does close the Tandberg deal, it will expand its enterprise video strategy from its high-end telepresence products to a full suite of desktop and room-based video systems, multipoint control units and video management software. Combined with Cisco’s existing lines of telephony products and Cisco will be competing directly with Tandberg’s chief rival Polycom on all fronts. If that happens, enterprises can expect other major communications vendors like Avaya and Microsoft to become heavily aligned with Polycom.

October 15, 2009  4:19 PM

Tandberg shareholders to Cisco: Put a bigger diamond on that ring

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Cisco’s deal to buy Tandberg could be on ice.

When Cisco and Tandberg agreed to their video marriage two weeks ago, the dowry was set at $3 billion. And the deal was contingent upon the approval of the owners of 90% of Tandberg’s stock.

According to Reuters (via GigaOm), Swedish brokerage SEB Enskilda has told Cisco that it represents 21 shareholders who own 24% of Tandberg’s stock, and those shareholders want more money.  “We think the price is too low,” Amund Lunde told Reuters. Lunde is CEO of life insurance firm Oslo Pensjonsforsikring, which owns 1% of Tandberg, It’s not clear what it would take to win over these holdouts, but clearly Cisco will have to dig deeper to get a controlling interest in the company.

Apparently investors have been telling the Norwegian press that something stinks about the Tandberg deal. According to the Financial Times (via Norwegian language site Dagen IT) Rasmussen Group CEO Rune Selmar said Cisco’s promise of three-year bonus agreements to “key” Tandberg employees “probably explains part of management’s positive attitude to the acquisition.”

Ouch. That sounds awfully close to an ugly accusation.

October 12, 2009  4:38 PM

Nortel’s Zafirovski wants his golden parachute

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Many, many Nortel retirees are in danger of losing their retirement benefits and severance payments as Nortel slowly slides into oblivion. Some of them would certainly face true financial hardships if this were to happen. Given the salary he has drawn over the last four years, former CEO Mike Zafirovski is probably not one of those vulnerable former employees. However, he is suing Nortel for his golden parachute.

Zafirovski was supposed to be the leader who turned around Nortel’s fortunes. Hired in 2005, he came on board with a five-year plan to help the Canadian tech giant rediscover its magic touch. He had some good tools to work with: a huge and loyal install base, good engineering talent, a strong brand name.

But fortune didn’t smile on the Zafirovski era. Nortel muddled along for three years. Then the economy took a nosedive and Nortel went bankrupt. Now rival companies are circling the Nortel carcass, biting off chunks of the business for $1 billion here and $500 million there. Zafirovski parted ways with Nortel in August. He left the company in such a state that it no longer even needs a CEO. The board of directors is letting the financial executives handle the final bloodletting and  breakup of the once proud company.

Zafirovski is fighting to make sure he gets compensated for his leadership. According to the Ottawa Citizen, he is seeking more than $12 million worth of bonuses, pension payouts and severance. Just a few months ago, he was fending off such lawsuits from former Nortel employees. Now he’s in line with the rest of them.

September 29, 2009  9:57 PM

Google Wave, also known as unified communications gone wild

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

By now, we’ve all heard about and drooled over and whined about our lack of invites into Google Wave, the latest Google application that promises to “revolutionize” communication — or at least CNN says so.

I only made it 25 minutes into the insanely long Google Wave demo video, which was long enough to see developer Lars Rasmussen do a jig but not quite long enough to see the Wave flex its muscles completely.

Beyond the ooh and ahh factor, how useful do you see this in an enterprise space? Your personal life? Do you really want people seeing you type in real time? One of our sister sites, SearchCIO.com is postulating that enterprises may be integrating the Google Wave into their own applications:

“People want a single place to collaborate on projects,” said Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., who wrote a blog post (“Google Wave: Surfing The Future Of Collaboration“) with his take on where Google Wave is heading.

“Right now across corporations, they have spreadsheets, projects hosted on SharePoint, users have to jump from one application to another and partners or customers are given access to a VPN to collaborate,” he said. “That’s why one place to communicate, tying together Google Wave and Google Docs, makes sense.”

I spoke to one Masssachusetts-based analyst tonight who is among the envied few with an advance Google Wave account, so of course asked her what she thought. So, for everyone who feels bad they didn’t get the invite… apparently, Google Wave is not very fun if no one else you know is using it.

September 18, 2009  8:47 PM

Nortel Auction: Siemens was edged out by a $15 million nose

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Toronto’s The Globe and Mail newspaper reported today that Siemens Enterprise Communications fell just $15 million short of beating out Avaya for Nortel’s enteprise division.

What the paper calls Siemens is probably more accurately described as a joint venture between private equity firm Gores Group and Siemens AG, who together own Siemens Enterprise Communications. Gores Group owns the controlling interest. Those two firms were reportedly working together to bid on the Nortel enterprise division.

If Gores and Siemens won,  the plan was to create a new company that combined Siemens’ market presence in Europe with Nortel’s presence in North America into a company that remained headquartered in Canada and offered a strong alternative to Avaya and Cisco, so says The Globe and Mail. In backroom negotiations with Nortel and the Canadian government that kicked off a year ago, before Nortel’s bankruptcy, Siemens had said that it would relocate its own headquarters from Munich to Toronto as part of the merger. Once the bankruptcy auction got underway, Siemens remained at the table.

But ultimately Siemens fell $15 million short of Avaya’s $900 million bid this week. Also, while Avaya’s offer was all cash, Siemens’ offer included $700 million in cash cash with an IOU for the rest. Apparently Siemens was trying to work out a loan from the Canadian government to help pay for the Nortel merger. The government backed away from those loan talks when Canada’s other major tech firm, Blackberry-maker Research In Motion, started grumbling about the prospect of Nortel selling off all of its various divisions to foreign companies, The Globe and Mail reported.

This has to be disappointing news to Canadian technophiles who have always had justifiable pride in Nortel’s status as the nation’s top tech firm. Now, the Globe and Mail reports, Avaya will ship all top executive jobs of Nortel’s enterprise division south of the border, probably to… gasp… New Jersey. And the paper says Avaya will probably cut 25% of Nortel’s workforce, including layoffs of 400 of 1,000 employees at plants in Ontario.

September 14, 2009  2:50 PM

Nortel to Avaya: You can buy our love … for $900M

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

After Nortel bankruptcy court deliberations outlasted most U.S. Open matches this weekend, the fallen Canadian communications and networking behemoth finally settled on a winning bidder for its Enterprise Solutions business — Avaya.

The New Jersey-based telecom, which had placed the first stalking horse bid of $475 million (US) this summer, has agreed to pay a cool $900 million for the assets, plus an additional $15 million reserved for an “employee retention program,” Nortel officials announced early Monday morning.

The company beat out Siemens Enterprise Communications in the nail-biter auction, which was delayed this weekend after Verizon filed court papers alleging Ayava’s acquisition of Nortel’s Government Solutions business in the deal would jeopardize national security, Reuters reported.

Officials from both companies had little to say about that hiccup this morning.

“[The auction] provides the capability to chart our future with laser-focus, enabling customers to compete in new ways with greater scale and resources. We look forward to working closely with our customers, partners and stakeholders during this pre-close phase to ensure that we continue to innovate to meet customers’ needs with high-performance, efficient and secure communications solutions,” said Joel Hackney, president of Nortel’s Enterprise Solutions, in a statement.

“As we work through integration planning, it is business as usual, and we will continue to focus on supporting our installed base,” he added. “Through deal close and beyond, we will deliver on our stated customer commitments and maintain high levels of service and support. We will ensure our customers can fully leverage their existing Nortel investment as they benefit from the complementary capabilities of the Nortel and the Avaya portfolio of products and services.”

And on and on and on.

Avaya was a bit more, well, succinct.

“Our successful bid brings us closer to adding Nortel and its complementary channel, portfolio, research and development, and global presence to Avaya,” said Kevin Kennedy, president and CEO, Avaya. “We believe the acquisition brings inherent value to both organizations’ customers, employees and partners, and we look forward to its successful conclusion.”

The fun doesn’t end yet though! Stayed tuned… the sale is pending approval from Canadian and U.S. courts in a joint hearing tomorrow.

August 27, 2009  5:21 PM

All the right moves with unified communications

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

What is unified communications? Never mind, don’t answer that.

Sometimes when I”m talking to vendors, I sense that unified communications is whatever they can convince you to buy. “Here, install our IP PBX and you’ll be on the cutting edge of unified communications?”

Oh really? How about a presence engine? How about a desktop client that combines voice, video, messaging and everything else that I need to stay in touch with the members of my team who are scattered all over the country?”

Yesterday I was talking to Shane Yu, the head of Avaya’s unified communications consulting practice and one thing he said really stuck with me. A lot of IT organizations treat a UC initiative as a science project. They just buy a piece of it and put some users on it and see what happens. If that’s your approach, how do you measure success? Gee, people like it. It works. That will make you popular among the cubicles, but executives won’t be impressed when you bring that message into their offices. They want to know why the company needs to change the way it communicates.

This conversation dovetailed nicely with my plans for a new series that I’m writing for SearchUnifiedCommunications.com.  I’m calling the it simply “Success with Unified Communications.” Not particularly catchy, but it’s to the point. Each story in this series will look at a key step in a unified communications deployment and explore how to execute it. I’m going to look at everything, from vendor selection to design & build. I’ll explore how to assemble the right team to run your UC project and what management software you should have in place to deliver good quality of service and experience. I’ll also explore what you need to do in order to stay ahead of the curve and to make sure your UC deployment ages gracefully.

Part One of this series hit the wire today: The Technology Needs Assessment. I hope you find it helpful.

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