Tag Archives: microsoft

Where Will Unified Communications Take Us?


The Future of Business Communications

The communications industry is making a big deal about unified communications. Is it real? What does it mean to users? Where will this take us?

With the preponderance of coverage around voice over IP, SIP, applications and the apparently new entry of both Microsoft and IBM into the enterprise communications mix, a cauldron of confusion and or opportunity has been heated up.

forecast What’s the future to hold? What are the effects of these new participants? Will they be successful? Will my current mix of applications be useful? How will I be affected by these ‘opportunities?’

In this report, Brockmann & Company reviews the major dynamics that got the industry to this point. Extrapolating that trajectory to the future presents unique insights into how what’s going on now makes sense, and sets up a predictive view of what to expect.

A few Minutes with Ken Bisconti, VP IBM Lotus Software

This is the first in a series of posts about my meeting with Ken Bisconti, the VP of IBM Lotus Software. Ken spoke with me at the Lotusphere Comes to You – Boston event last week.


In research that I had conducted at another firm in the fall of 2006, it was surprising to me how strong the demand for hosted enterprise applications and services really is. My experiences with phone company-based centrex services colored to a large extent my laggard view of the technology and its prospects. Yet, in the face of the data, I am forced to revisit the space and am compelled to understand the dynamics of this rapidly changing space.

My question to Ken was around IBM's hosting strategy? Is there a plan to respond to the hosting opportunity?

IBM is the leader in outsourcing services operations, has an impressive managed services capability, but no hosting (Ken called it a multi-tenant service) offer. With Microsoft positioning its' consumer and business hosted services and offerings,  with Cisco acquiring Webex, IBM must be planning to play a role in this rapidly emerging market?

Ken explained that IBM will fill this gaps in their strategy soon, probably in 2007. We discussed the hypothesis that hosting is to address small business. I didn't disagree, except to point out that there are large enterprise benefits to implementing a uniform architecture where some sites or classes of employees are hosted, and some are more traditionally supported directly by IT. In these circumstances, the role of the IBM hosted offering would be to simplify that decision in favor of IBM products and services, instead of a split technology decision (which could tilt the playing field to the other guys who have a complete hosted and purchased offer).

We didn't go into details on whether this might be an acquisition or strategic alliance, but it is clear that a hosted offering can be a complement to filling the need for a uniform architecture across an enterprise. This would involve a lower price and cost than the managed service offering, because it is a standardized shared but private service. 

Comparing Softphones to IP phones

At VoiceCon, Microsoft made much noise about how the softphone delivered better audio quality than a leading IP phone. (see my posts: Microsoft – where do your get this stuff? and Psytechnics Gets a Microsoft Moment )

At first it sounds impressive – especially considering the history of Windows. I remember in 1998 getting all excited about the prospects of Nortel doing a deal with Vocaltec, the Israeli company that was the first with a Windows softphone, but then having experienced it, I acknowledged that the OS had several flaws.

Windows 95, 98 and probably Millenium, were all single threaded. That means, that any real-time process underway, occupied the machine completely. Any intermittent process, like a clock update, or an email server update simply seized control of the processor, did its thing, and then dropped the user back into the real-time process then underway. This might work if I was editing an email since the interrupt was only about 500 milliseconds long. However, in an audio conversation, a random 0.5 seconds of zero speech processing can destroy the context for the user, and of course destroy the experience of the user.

It could literally eliminate answers like, 'no' which only take ~ 400 milliseconds to speak.

However, Windows today, with the fast processors of today, with the massive memory of today have no trouble with this challenge (thank God) and the Psytechnics test proves it. In the test, results available at www.psytechnics.com, a Microsoft Windows and Office client with a USB phone are contrasted with the Cisco 7961 IP phone. The comparisons show that the MSFT device supports Wideband and Narrowband operation, while the Cisco phone supports G.711 and G.729.

Does this show that MSFT doesn't support the ITU's codec and won't be able to interoperate with other gateways and applications?

Also, the confidence intervals of each of the samples contrasting the narrowband and the G.711 may suggest that the gap is pretty small. For example, at IP Condition 1 (no other apps running on the LAN), the MSFT setup generates a MOS (Mean Opinion Score) of 3.51 and a confidence interval of 0.11. In contrast, the Cisco phone, at IP Condition 1, using the G.711 codec generated a MOS mean of 3.41 and a confidence interval of 0.11. So, although the MSFT setup does have an higher score here, it isn't much of a higher score.

So, this is a test of the performance of two codecs – one using ITU codec standards and the other a proprietary MSFT implementation. Was that the real goal of the test?

Maybe MSFT should present its IPR to the ITU to imbed it into the next codec standard? How about it, Jeff? 




News from Redmond WA

Mobile VoIP took another giant leap this week.

I spent a few days with the folks at Microsoft where I talked and listened to their plans for VoIP on the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform and learned about their priorities: who they saw as the biggest competitive threats, the practice of building a mobility operating system and the framework for the future, [a roadmap], and an opportunity to engage with my peers in the ISV community.

SIPquest is a member of the Microsoft Partners Advisory Council, a small group of ISVs, software distributors and systems integrators engaged in focusing on the fundamentals of the Microsoft Windows Mobile eco-system. The council is run by Margie Gradwohl who works in the Mobile and Embedded Devices division. It was interesting to see Microsoft's roadmap, and discuss broad challenges in the ecosystem. We even got a chance to showcase our offerings to Microsoft employees and partners at the Summit.

Great event, and thanks to those for thinking about including me and my employer in the program.