Atos acquires Unify with eyes on enterprise unified communications

The market for enterprise communications tools continues to heat up.

mergers and acquisitions

This week, France-based company Atos Origin announced it is acquiring Unify for $371 million ($340 Euro) to move into the enterprise unified communications market. For those not familiar with Atos, it is one of the larger European-based IT service companies.

I'm sure many of the readers of this site may not be familiar with Unify. About a year ago, Siemens Enterprise Network (SEN) sold off Enterasys to Extreme Networks, rebranded itself "Unify," and simultaneously launched a new flagship product, Circuit. Unify is structured as a joint venture between its former owner, Siemens AG, and The Gores Group, with Siemens controlling 51% of the company. Adding to the complexity of the deal, Siemens actually owns a 12% stake in Atos.

The new Circuit product is one of many Workstream communications and collaboration tools, similar to Cisco's Spark (disclosure: Cisco is a client of ZK Research), Slack, and Glip, which was recently acquired by Ring Central. Circuit is a WebRTC-based application that's delivered via the cloud. Since the launch of the new application, Unify has promoted the concept of the "new world of work" driven by digital transformation. The idea being that a new era of work requires new tools.

Atos's acquisition of Unify should be a "win-win" for both companies. Atos is a huge services firm and it picks up one of the leading products in the emerging WCC space. Because it is delivered as an "as a service" model, the product should appeal broadly to not only IT buyers but also lines of business, enabling Atos to sell to a broader audience.

For Unify, it's been about a year now since Circuit debuted, and the company has let many of the other companies in this space grab mindshare. Unify has a huge install base of "traditional" UC customers, but getting them to pivot from OpenScape to Circuit requires a heavy dose of up-front professional services, as well as post sales service. Atos can be the catalyst to help Unify customers make this transition.

Also, Atos has deep pockets and, as part of the deal, it takes over an outstanding pension liability, which may have significantly hampered Unify in the future. I'd like to see Atos use some of the money in its coffers for advertising and brand-building purposes. Since the company rebranded itself, Unify has been fairly quiet. Given that there are at least 15 WCC solution providers, Atos needs to make sure potential customers are at least aware of Circuit.

The past year has seen a fair amount of M&A activity in the UC industry. For example, Mitel acquired Aastra and Mavenir, Cisco purchased Tropo, and RingCentral bought Glip. Atos acquiring Unify is the latest move, but don't expect it to be the last.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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