There has been a lot written in the past week about IBM's announcements during VoiceCon and the additions IBM is putting into Sametime 8. Many of these are targeted actions to compete more effectively with Microsoft in the Unified Communications space. IBM's recent announcements include support, via Siemens, to integrate with existing PBX systems, IBM's acquisition of WebDialogs, and IBM's expansion of SameTime to include Persistent Chat.
In a recent Information Week article, it is stated that IBM's approach is different than Microsoft's because IBM's solution allows companies to leverage their existing PBX systems while Microsoft's solution requires companies to rip and replace.
When reading the above article and press releases, a few things come to mind:
First, the Information Week article does not consider Microsoft's VOIP as you are campaign, which is built around integrating with existing PBX systems. Whether or not you believe this is a Trojan horse strategy, Microsoft clearly has a short-term solution for integrating with existing PBX systems, whether they are from Cisco, Nortel, Avaya, etc. This is a good thing since Office Communications Server, while it can act as a standalone PBX, is not yet ready to handle very large organizations.
Second, the Information Week article points to the Microsoft vs. IBM battle for Unified Communications, and points out that IBM's goal with Sametime 8 is to get out ahead of Microsoft (or stay ahead according to IBM's Rhodin). One feature that is highlighted is the screen sharing capability that will be available in Sametime 8's Advanced Version. This is mentioned as a way to get ahead of Microsoft despite Microsoft having application and screen sharing in its product (from the Placeware acquisition) for years (first in LCS 2005 and then again in OCS 2007).
All of these points however are not nearly as interesting as the lack of mention of Cisco. Cisco is investing heavily in the Unified Communications space and I have often wondered how the relationship between Cisco and IBM is faring given rumors that IBM wanted to buy Webex but that Cisco bought it out from underneath them.
Either way, it strikes me that the Unified Communications race is by no means a two horse race. Furthermore, as a veteran of producing Persistent Group Chat products for Unified Communications and Real-Time messaging solutions, I am excited to see Persistent Chat mentioned as one of the key components, along with voice and live meetings, in the race to win the Unified Communications desktop.