It seems Microsoft's unified communications system Lync is becoming so popular among businesses that it is the No.1 threat to the top vendors Cisco and Avaya. Cisco this week launched an online blogging campaign to point out Lync's shortcomings, and Avaya volunteered a nearly identical list of what it perceives as Lync limitations.
The fighting words started on the eve of Microsoft's first Lync Conference last Tuesday and where it announced a combination of upgrades and road map destinations that address some of the issues raised by its competitors.
But the dramatically increasing popularity of Lync in the past two years may have Cisco and Avaya running scared, says Irwin Lazar, an analyst with Nemertes Research. "The Microsoft threat is top of line for both of these companies right now," he says. According to Nemertes, the percentage of businesses planning to replace their existing phone systems with Lync or already had replaced them more than doubled between 2011 and 2012 [see graphic].
While their circumstances are different the two UC leaders Cisco and Avaya have reason to worry. "Cisco customers are more reluctant to move [to Lync] because [Cisco UC] is a more recent investment," Lazar says. "Avaya customers are a little more open [to the change]. They have [invested in] just voice and maybe a contact center. Microsoft is a huge threat for both companies."
In launching what it describes as both a conversation and a debate, Cisco outlined what it sees as Lync limitations.
It says Microsoft doesn't provide phones, video endpoints, voice and video gateways, networking and cloud PSTN connections - leaving customers to find them elsewhere, increasing cost and complexity to implement, manage and troubleshoot Lync installations.
Cisco says Microsoft has no clear path for Lync cloud deployments that support the same functionality as on-site Lync deployments.
Microsoft's Surface tablets and laptops compete against other hardware vendors, Cisco says, which poses a conflict of interest when it comes to supporting bring-your-own-device programs. Microsoft might restrict full Lync features to Microsoft devices rather than making them all available to all devices.
Cisco faults Microsoft for not supplying all the infrastructure elements needed to support unified communications and collaboration. This means involving integrators and a laundry list of vendors to flesh out Lync deployments.
A Cisco white paper criticizes Lync license structure, choice of video codecs and lack of full Lync support in Microsoft's cloud service Office 365.
Cisco attacks what it interprets as Microsoft's strategy for Skype. It says in the white paper that Skype will evolve to run better on Microsoft's own software platforms than on others, at least according to this statement from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer: "We always want Skype to be first and best on Windows."
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