Cisco UC Offensive Attacks Microsoft Lync

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Cisco Systems Inc. launches a full-on assault against Microsoft Corp.'s Lync communication strategy, arguing that a single-vendor multi-device approach is more aligned with future needs than the Windows and PC-centric approach Microsoft has taken with Lync.

Cisco_Lync_impactCisco Systems Inc. is playing for keeps in the UC collaboration space, launching a full-on offensive to Microsoft Corp.'s Lync communication platform. The pitch is simple: Cisco attests its single-vendor extensible platform is more aligned with the needs of modern IT than Microsoft's multi-vendor hardware approach with Lync. Specifically, Cisco cites the  focus on the Windows environment as a detriment to Lync's flexibility.

Harsh claims, but Cisco backs up its attacks with the results of a survey that queried 3200 global IT professionals. Seventy-two percent of respondents said that a "Windows first" approach would impact businesses" by limiting the breadth of communication on other devices, particularly the quality of service on mobile devices, like iOS and Android. Cisco also attacked Microsoft on its cloud strategy, pointing to Lync's incomplete feature parity with its cloud counterpart, Lync OnlineWith 80 percent of IT pros expecting the same enterprise-grade voice and video service from the cloud, Cisco says this weaken's Microsoft's strategy. 

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Cisco's results also revealed that 47 percent of respondents don't use Lync for "business critical external communications," and a sizable 78 percent feel a multi-vendor approach to a UC hardware can negatively impact businesses, particularly in troubleshooting situations or when something goes wrong. (To be fair, this complexity represents a sizable support opportunity for solution providers working with Lync.)

In a corporate blog post, Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group, says Microsoft's user engagement options with Lync are inherently limited by its platform focus.  "Microsoft’s approach with Lync leaves out several important collaboration elements many enterprise organizations find critical today – such as phones, video endpoints, voice and video gateways, networking and cloud PSTN connections. These components need to be procured, integrated and supported separately for those who choose to use Lync," argues Trollope. In addition, Trollope alludes that Lync could hamper flexibility of BYOD and prevent future interoperable collaboration platforms from being adopted, particularly move moving to the cloud.

Those claims, and more, are now the central focus of a Cisco "microsite" devoted to the "controversy" of this "conversation." In truth, Cisco isn't entirely wrong, but it is a bit disingenuous on some of its its assertions.

Even as Microsoft Windows fades from being the most prominent OS of choice, it still claims a sizable hold on corporate culture, which means PC aren't going anywhere -- virtualized or physical. And with Office 365 just getting off the ground, Lync could get a boost as users enjoy what Microsoft's cloud services offer, and cloud feature parity is not an unfixable problem. While it may be Cisco's modus operandi to hammer away at its competitors, Microsoft's technology, while still maturing, is far form the ineffective platform Cisco would make it out to be. Like all things, VARs, MSPs and communication providers need to lead with the solution best attuned to their customer needs.

Worth noting: Competition is getting ugly. While Cisco makes itself look shiny with facts and figures, this is still a negative campaign against a competitor. But before feeling bad for Microsoft, realize this is par for the course. Microsoft recently attacked Google's privacy policy with Gmail, saying Google "Scroogles" its users, in an attempt to convert users to the Outlook.com online service. Expect more of same as 2013 becomes a battleground for cloud services.

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