Image via CrunchBaseIf Microsoft still has a UC strategy worth talking about, it just took another hit with the announcement (not really a surprise) that Nortel has filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11.
When Microsoft launched Uits ambitious Unified Communications strategy in early 2007, it made Nortel a big part of its plans because, as it readily admitted, it didn't really have a reputation in telecom. Redmond recognized correctly that if it was going to beat out Cisco, IBM and Avaya in the IP telephony game, it was going to need a partner that would get it in the door with operations personnel.
Microsoft faced a new set of challenges selling into the large enterprise market it was targeting. First, UC is dependent on selling to a different group, even where telecom is considered part of IT. Second, Microsoft smartly recognized that it has a well-deserved reputation for bringing flawed products to market and letting customers identify bugs.
But it's a well-known fact that telecom has long been considered much more mission-critical than IT networks. It's OK for email to be down for fifteen minutes--but not the phone system.
Nortel was a perfect fit because it brought a huge sales team familiar with the customer base, and a sterling reputation for quality. Nortel suffered for not being sexy, but it was safe, for crying out loud.
Typically, Microsoft took its time developing its stack, but there didn't seem to be any hurry. The IP telephony market has lots of green field, and its a safe bet that companies facing the end of life of their PBX systems will turn to IPBX or other IP-based systems in the future.
Just as typically, Microsoft was arrogant enough to believe that if it got a foot in the door (thanks to the Nortel shoe), it would beat the competition, primarily because of the neat interoperability between its IP stack and its productivity stack.
Now, Microsoft is in danger of losing that steel-toed boot with which it was going to kick down the door of opportunity. While Nortel remains in business today, potential customers are unlikely to pick a vendor with (pardon the extended metaphor) one foot in the grave, particularly in this unsettled environment.