Don’t touch that PBX

The rise of unified communications software does not seem to have affected the market for IP telephony, according to market research firm IDC.

IDC Monday released a study, titled Worldwide IP PBX and Hardware Desktop IP Phones, that concludes unified communications products from IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp. “have had minimal impact on the growth of IP telephony lines.”

“The bulk of Microsoft’s marketing around IP telephony and unified communications adoption has been, ‘Don’t touch your PBX,’” said Nora Freedman, senior analyst for enterprise networks at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

She added Microsoft is trying to convince customers they can get “advanced features” by upgrading to Exchange 2007 and buying Office Communications Server. “In the near term Microsoft is relying on … telephony vendors to provide technology to make a phone call, because not everything can be done through IM.”

Microsoft currently has a partnership with Nortel Networks Corp. to offer unified communications technology using hardware from Nortel and software from Microsoft. In March, the companies jointly launched four products, including Converged Office, Multimedia Conferencing, Carrier Hosted Unified communications Solutions and UC Integrated Branch.

The vendors say UC Integrated Branch will extend unified communications to branch offices by combining Office Communications Server 2007 with Nortel’s Secure Router 4134.

Last month, Nortel and Microsoft announced a unified communications and collaboration service for carriers, which would let them offer services to companies based on Office Communications Server. The combined offering uses Nortel Communications Server 2000 and Microsoft’s Hosted Messaging and Collaboration version 4.5, which combines hosted versions for Office Communications Server 2007 and Exchange Server 2007.

“A lot of telephony vendors are using the Nortel-Microsoft partnership as the case example of how to engage with Microsoft,” Freedman said. Last month, Campbell, Calif.-based Infonetics Research reported the unified communications software market grew by 20 per cent in 2007, which was “driven by” the Nortel-Microsoft alliance.

The IDC study released yesterday said threats to the IP PBX market include desktop collaborative environments, open source IP PBXs and hosted VoIP services.

Although collaboration tools give users ways – other than phone calls – of communicating, users still demand reliable voice service, Freedman said. “There are jokes about people saying the guarantees in life are death and taxes – well, the business user expects dial tone, too,” she said. “In emergency notifications, there’s an overwhelming majority of the population that still expects a voice message to be distributed, which is emanating from the PBX.”

In its study, IDC reported network equipment manufacturers shipped a total of 30.9 million voice lines in 2007, Freed said. When measured by revenue, Cisco Systems Inc. and Avaya Inc. had 23 per cent and 22 per cent market share respectively. Nortel had 15 per cent, Siemens 12 per cent while Alcatel-Lucent had seven per cent.

The Infonetics study released last month, showed sales of unified communications and IP contact centre products grew 22 per cent to $1.05 billion in 2007, while sales of communicator software was 164 per cent higher in 2007 than in 2006.

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