Microsoft, HP Tie the Knot on Unified Comm


LAS VEGAS — Two industry goliaths are claiming they can change the IT landscape for collaboration. That’s the message delivered today by top executives from HP, who said they’re joining forces with Microsoft to spread the companies’ combined solution and services for unified communication (UC).

Speaking here the Interop conference, which kicked off this morning in Las Vegas, executives announced a new $180 million partnership around UC. The new partnership could end up helping both companies that share over 100,000 customers today, according to Ann Livermore, executive vice president at HP (NYSE:HPQ).

The two IT giants’ broader plan, though, is to change the model of how communication works, moving from thinking of it as just an endpoint to viewing it as a solution that can run on any consumer notebook or desktop — and capitalizing on the results accordingly.

“We’re announcing a multi-year relationship about doing UC and collaboration better, focused on real-time collaboration and communication,” Livermore told the packed audience at Interop.

Unified communications efforts in the IT industry are hardly new. But HP said that its close work with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) — which builds on the two companies’ decades-old Frontline Partnership for joint solutions — would yield a broader set of integrated products and services for customers.

“We need a catalyst that has the muscle and the willpower to make change,” Marius Haas, senior vice president and general manager of HP ProCurve, said during the presentation. “HP will be that driving force, and many of our customers are saying it’s about time. We’re going to change the game and change the rules.”

Livermore also noted that the HP-Microsoft partnership will be different by offering lower total cost of ownership and a single point of accountability for both sales and service.

The extent of the partnership is wide-reaching, and will include support for Microsoft collaboration solutions that run on HP notebooks and desktops as well as new HP deskphones.

To illustrate the two companies’ joint work, HP and Microsoft did an on-stage demonstration using Microsoft collaboration tools to enable a video conference call with India and Singapore from a regular desktop PC.

Unified competition

The move aims to better capitalize on burgeoning demand for UC solutions. Forrester Research has said the market for enterprise unified communications could grow as high as $14.5 billion by 2015, and that businesses will give about 60 percent of their workforce access to UC functions to improve their productivity.

Of course, interest in linking applications, devices and employees together through unified communications has also encouraged new efforts from other major industry luminaries, ranging from Cisco to Oracle.

But HP’s Haas added that HP ProCurve is the fastest-growing networking vendor in the areas in which it competes. And by coming together with Microsoft on UC, Haas said HP will be positioned for even more growth in the future.

Livermore also took indirect aim at Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and its unified computing fabric strategy during her remarks.

“HP is the only company that has server, storage, networking, management and the services to surround it to create a unified computing fabric,” Livermore said. “Some of our competitors talk about it, but we’re the only ones that deliver it.”

Livermore also pointed to the broad engagement that HP already has with Microsoft — by way of the hardware giant’s EDS division — as another reason why the alliance will succeed.

“EDS services represent 30 percent of our revenue — we have over 23,000 people focused on Microsoft technology today,” Livermore said. “We believe these solutions around unified communication can be a source of competitive differentiation.”

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