IBM to put billions into unified communications

* IBM is investing $1 billion to advance its unified communications position

Last week, IBM announced that it would invest $1 billion over the next three years to advance its unified communications position. The investment will be focused primarily on Lotus Sametime, but will also include investments in a variety of consulting and services offerings focused on unified communications.

The new investments are focused on two major areas: a) developing new products, such as the Lotus Sametime Advanced offering that will be debuted later this month; and b) a variety of integration capabilities designed to help Lotus collaboration and unified communications offerings work in multivendor and multiplatform environments. Sametime will be the centerpiece for much of this development effort, receiving new capabilities and continuing to be sold direct and through OEM agreements with companies like Nortel and Cisco.

The latter point above is critical: our research has found that legacy investments are a key factor that inhibits many organizations from migrating toward unified communications. These investments often are not fully depreciated, and so decision makers that might want to migrate to a unified architecture simply can’t justify doing so. However, if they are given the opportunity to migrate more slowly by integrating their legacy systems with new technologies and incrementally add capabilities over time, the justification process can be much easier.

That’s not to say that IBM doesn’t face formidable competition from Microsoft and others. Microsoft has a developing unified communications strategy that is also quite attractive for many organizations: Exchange Server 2007 with its unified communication capabilities, Office Communication Server 2007, Office Communicator and so forth. Add to this the competition from Cisco, Nortel, Avaya and many other firms, and the field becomes quite crowded and competitive.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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