When two companies like Microsoft Corp. and Nortel Networks Ltd. form a strategic alliance, the channel takes notice, as well it should. (see story)

These names one known for software and world domination, the other for telecom equipment and ailing financials are giants in their respective spaces, and their coming together to develop unified communications signals big opportunity for the indirect channel.

The market for unified communications is just beginning to emerge and we think its a big opportunity, upwards of $40 billion, where software will be a key driver, said Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division, on Microsofts Web site. Core to our strategy is software and our partner channel. We will create a broad software platform and a complete ecosystem.

Raikes said the resulting services, which will link SMBs and enterprises home, office, fax, IM and e-mail communications into one, will best be rolled out by systems integrators, resellers and independent software vendors.

This tells me that even though the telecom industry is once again in a state of flux, it also is in a state of convergence itself. As PHONE+ has been saying for ages now (or at least since Ive been here all of three years) telecom is no longer just telecom. Big-dollar opportunities for the channel abound once you look beyond traditional voice sales and start incorporating data and value-added services (even though the margins might not be huge yet, they will be when demand meets up with supply). The unified communications deal is just another example of the consultative sale the channel can provide to its end users, who more and more care less and less about cost. They want great service and no hassles. They want you to take care of them.

In that vein, organizers of the Fall 2006 Channel Partners Conference & Expo have planned a series of sessions that will give channel partners direction as they continue evolving their focus and bolstering their portfolios with new (and in some cases, really cool) services. Its going to be a great conference. So, grab a cup of joe and a bagel from the continental breakfast tables outside the education rooms, have your pen and paper ready for note-taking, and Ill see you there!


— Kelly Teal

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