If you read this article by Network World’s Jim Duffy closely, you cannot help but come to the conclusion that the unified-communications partnership between Microsoft and Nortel will result in one vendor benefiting enormously and the other left as nothing but a reseller sidekick.
If you guessed that Microsoft will emerge the winner and Nortel the impoverished second banana, congratulations! Your perspicacious powers of perception have not failed you.
I admit, Nortel was backed into a dark corner when it cut this Faustian pact with Microsoft. Really, Nortel didn’t have many options. It needed to expand sales channels for its IP PBX product line, as a means of keeping revenue flowing and of keeping itself relevant in enterprise voice communications. Microsoft was there, offering a shrewd deal that promised Nortel near-term sales opportunities and long-term irrelevance. It was an offer the beleaguered suits at Nortel couldn’t refuse.
For their part, the opportunistic business-development executives at Microsoft know a desperate mark when they see one. They realized that Nortel could be exploited, that Nortel needed a lifeline tossed its way, and that Nortel had the missing piece of SIP-based voice technology that would invest future versions of Microsoft’s Exchange Server with compelling unified-communications features and functionality.
It was a relationship of convenience, but one in which only one vendor had thought several steps ahead to the ultimate end game. Sure, Nortel has opportunities today to sell IP PBXes and related software that interoperate with Microsoft’s Exchange Server and Office Communications Server. When this relationship is consummated, though, when it all comes to fruition, the need for the Nortel products will evaporate and Microsoft exclusively will provide a fully integrated, software-based solution to enterprise customers.
Maybe Nortel was hoping Microsoft would buy it rather than just bleed it of its enterprise lifeblood. But there’s a lot of baggage at Nortel — like, say, its entire line of telecommunications-equipment gear — that Microsoft had no interest in owning. There also were corporate integration issues that weren’t worth the headache. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk at cut-rate prices?
Microsoft had time and strategy on its side. Nortel had neither.