NEW YORK — We have seen the rise of Web 2.0 and social networks. But
where does it all go? For starters, collaboration — which is really at the
core of Web 2.0 technologies.
For Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft
, and John Chambers, CEO of Cisco
, this next wave of innovation via Web 2.0 collaboration demands more interoperability. The tech titans promised customers will see the benefits of greater collaboration even they have to knock some of their engineers’ heads together to make it happen.
During a chat today with Charlie Rose of PBS’s Charlie Rose news
program, Ballmer and Chambers promised to step up interoperability efforts,
while painting the big picture of where communications technology is headed.
“We see the architecture of the market, and we see it as remarkably
similar regarding mobility, mobile devices and where the markets are going,”
Chambers said. “We define them similarly. There are so many areas that if we
work together, we’ll be successful.”
With Cisco’s focus on more uses of “presence” online to foster more
real-time collaboration, and Microsoft’s integration of presence and unified
communications across its productivity suite, the companies’ products could
either be on a collision course in customers’ hands, or working together.
Analysts such as Jan Dawson, a vice president with Ovum Research’s
enterprise practices, see more of a collision course for market share,
especially in the Unified Communications market.
“Cisco’s purchase of WebEx was the latest major salvo in this war, but
the two companies are increasingly shaping up as the two major competitive
forces in this market,” Dawson said in a research note. “Both companies’
legendarily aggressive salesforces have been feeding this notion as they
seek to sell their UC solutions in the market.”
Both executives appeared to acknowledge their intensifying rivalry, while
still sending a message of cooperation to their customers.
“The days of being friend or foe are over,” Chambers added. “The
industry’s moving too rapidly for large players” for anything less than
interoperability on emerging technologies.
This is especially true in the realm of unified communications, such as
Voice-over IP and more uses of presence in order to collaborate online with
video, text and messaging among workgroups, to name just a few.
But make no mistake, Ballmer added. “In the communications applications
area, there will be areas where we compete as we do. We’re working together
on where the future of the data center will look like. It could bring new
opportunities and new competition. It probably brings some of both.”
The alliance outlined today covers seven areas across consumer,
enterprise, small and medium-sized business (SMB) and public sector markets.
They include: IT architecture, security, management, wireless and mobility,
unified communications, connected entertainment and small and medium-sized
businesses (SMBs). Ballmer and Chambers said they see opportunities in easing adoption of converging data, voice and video in both the fixed and mobile environments.
So, memo to customers: Both companies are dedicated to developing
technologies according to existing industry standards and working together with the industry to jointly design and introduce new standards.
And, yes, sometimes that means urging engineers from both companies to
work harder at achieving this interoperability. But it’s happening. Take
Cisco’s Network Admission Control (NAC) and Microsoft’s Network
Access Protection (NAP) protocols. They announced three years
ago a plan to collaborate on making their platforms interoperable. This
year, however, the two companies finally moved closer to making that actually happen as the technology for network access control matured.
Microsoft also recently announced
that its NAP system would interoperate with another industry group, Trusted
Computing Groups’ Trusted Network Connect (TNC)
On other topics, Ballmer offered no comment on whether Microsoft was in
negotiations to purchase Yahoo, which has been a topic of speculation in the
industry. “We’ll continue to find ways to partner with [Yahoo] where it
makes sense,” Ballmer said in response to a question from Rose on the
possibility of a merger.
But on these big picture topics, and the collaboration that underlines
the definition of Web 2.0, both executives stayed on message about what they
need to do: Find a way to keep pace with change, including embracing an
even deeper level of interoperability in order to help drive the next
phase of communication in the Internet age.
As Dawson noted: “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 isn’t needed.”