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Microsoft, Cisco Play Nice

Heavyweight unified communications competitors Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. highlighted interoperability plans between the two companies at a joint press conference in New York City this week. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Cisco CEO John Chambers laid out areas of future collaboration, and noted that the two have a history of working together despite the market perception of rivalry.

The two will work to make it easier for IT departments to deploy a hybrid Cisco-Microsoft service-oriented infrastructure with the Microsoft-Cisco Network Optimization Program for Windows Vista and Windows Server, and will align on a holistic network security approach, partnering with storage company EMC on the Secure Information Sharing Architecture for sharing confidential information. Also, Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager will be enabled to work with Windows Mobile devices, and the two will promote interoperability in the connected home and IPTV arenas.

The partnership will be a role model for the industry, Chambers said, also acknowledging that the two companies will remain respectful competitors in many areas.

Some remained unconvinced that the two were hanging up the boxing gloves. Mondays announcements were useful as a statement of intent from both companies about their plans to interoperate, but dont go much further than that, said Jan Dawson, Ovum Ltd.s vice president of U.S. enterprise practice. The behavior of Ciscos and Microsofts salespeople on the front lines and their engineers in the backrooms at both companies will be what really drives market perception of their ability to work together. The tension between seeking competitive advantage through proprietary technology and establishing interoperability through open standards will remain, and both companies will have to make tough decisions about where to draw the line between the two. Hopefully they will both move a little further in the direction of interoperability, but they will both also continue to do their best to create a world where the other isnt needed.

Cisco Systems Inc. www.cisco.com
Microsoft Corp. www.microsoft.com


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