Nortel and Microsoft unveil joint unified messaging roadmap


Nortel and Microsoft have unveiled a comprehensive road map for what the two companies call their “shared vision for unified communications (UC).” The roadmap was announced in New York on Wednesday by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski at a function attended by more than 100 customers.

The roadmap includes schedules for the launch of key applications and systems including:

UC Integrated Branch – This new product from the alliance will incorporate Nortel and Microsoft technology on a single piece of hardware. It is aimed an enabling easy and cost-effective deployment of VoIP and UC in remote offices, according to a Nortel release. Availability will be in Q4 of 2007.

Unified messaging – Availability of native session initiation protocol (SIP), interoperability between the Nortel Communication Server 1000 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging is planned for Q2 this year.

Conferencing – This new offering will seek to extend Nortel multimedia conferencing features to Microsoft Office Communicator 2007. Slated to be available in Q4 of 2007, the offering is aimed at providing a uniform, familiar client experience across applications such as voice, instant messaging, presence, and audio- and videoconferencing.

The roadmap announced yesterday is the fall out of the Innovative Communication Alliance (ICA) formed by Microsoft and Nortel in July 2006. Besides the three new joint offerings, it includes 11 new implementation services driven by Nortel’s Global Services business.

These products and services will “dramatically improve business communications by breaking down the barriers between voice, e-mail, instant messaging, multimedia conferencing and other forms of communication” said a Nortel release. It added that the expanded integration services portfolio spans the entire network lifecycle “from design and deployment to support and evolution.” The companies also announced 20 “joint demonstration centres [that allow] customers to experience the technology firsthand.”

In the six months since the ICA was formed, Microsoft and Nortel have signed agreements with “dozens of customers” the companies announced. “Our goal is to close the gap between the devices we use to communicate and the business applications we use to run our businesses,” Zafirovski said.

Ballmer noted that the average employee gets more than 50 messages every day on up to seven different devices or applications. “Software can and will help address the ongoing challenge of managing communications, and this challenge is the driving idea behind our alliance with Nortel.”

The Microsoft executive said the two companies would collaboratively evolve VoIP and unified communications “to integrate all the ways we contact each other in a simple environment, using a single identity across phones, PCs and other devices.”

Early customers of the alliance include multinational oil company Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

“Over the next several years, we plan to migrate our network to a software-based communications system built on technologies represented by the Nortel and Microsoft alliance,” said Johan Krebbers, group IT architect at Royal Dutch Shell, who joined Ballmer and Zafirovski onstage at Wednesday’s event.