Microsoft has a ways to go with VoIP but competitors should beware

* Microsoft VoIP range incomplete, despite QOEM addition

As we disclosed last time in our VoiceCon 2007 highlights, Microsoft has announced the addition of voice “quality of experience” monitoring to its unified communications and VoIP feature set. The timing of Microsoft’s announcement was somewhat ironic since it came in the same week that Cisco’s CEO John Chambers and Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer held a major press event that discussed how the two companies’ relationship is formed around both cooperation and competition.

Microsoft’s announcement clearly reinforces the notion that it is a formidable competitor to Cisco and to other IP telephony equipment suppliers when it comes to VoIP and unified communications. Microsoft’s Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 Quality of Experience Monitoring (QOEM) Server is designed to monitor voice and video quality and issues, and it features real-time updates, along with alerts and detailed analysis of network performance based on the user’s endpoint.

According to Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president at Microsoft’s Unified Communications: “A new era of business communication is upon us, defined by software, not hardware — and sound quality will be one of the key product differentiators.”

Backing up Gurdeep’s claim, Microsoft has released a white paper that touts its superiority over other solutions.

Since the software will only provide QoS monitoring and management to Microsoft-specific deployments, the initial release will be somewhat helpful to enterprises that deploy OCS with their PBX, but IT managers will still need to rely on other management tools for elements that aren’t connected to OCS 2007.

Our analysis: While the addition of voice and video quality management adds another arrow in the Microsoft quiver, we don’t think Microsoft has a complete VoIP solution – at least not yet. But as we’ve said before, traditional suppliers like Nortel, Siemens, Avaya and Cisco need to keep ahead of the feature curve if they don’t want to be entirely displaced by Microsoft.

And on the issue of cooperation vs. competition, we’ll come back to that again next week.

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