But before looking forward into the future, it’s necessary to look back on what has undoubtedly been one of the telecom news intensive years in recent memory. This past year was particularly interesting because of Nortel’s well publicized 2009 demise, as Nortel’s chief competitors spent considerable money and efforts attacking Nortel’s customer base very aggressively, with the likes of Cisco, Microsoft, Mitel, ShoreTel, NEC, and Toshiba all vying for a piece of Nortel’s expansive market share.
All the while, Avaya, the company that bought Nortel’s assets, spent considerable resources—in both development and marketing dollars—simply trying to hang on to both the Nortel dealer and customer base. With Avaya’s ongoing strategy to produce a product wherein 1 + 1 would equal more than 2 for both the company and its customers, its seems that Avaya has managed to contain the initial losses from its Nortel acquisition and effectively transition some of the former Nortel customer base to Avaya’s own hardware.
In early 2010 Avaya announced a new direction for the company, laying out a product road map that saw the impending discontinuation of the Norstar and Avaya Partner in the SME channel, with eventual product consolidation into the Avaya IP Office family of products. The Business Communication Manager’s (BCM) fate will probably follow the same path in the next few months as Avaya releases its much anticipated IP Office 7, which includes support for the older Nortel M and T series sets. But even with IP Office 7 the question remains, with competitors looking to fill the Nortel void, how much of the old Nortel market share can Avaya hang on to?
Most of the larger competitors recognize the market potential of the old Nortel base and to that end have put some very aggressive transition discounts in place to attract potential customers. For Avaya’s part, while it has an excellent product and a sterling reputation in the market, it will take more than that to full capitalize on its Nortel acquisition.
In order to continue to maintain its current market share, Avaya will need not only an excellent product and a great reputation, but the dealer channel to sell its product as well. So even with the majority of the old Nortel dealer base now selling Avaya’s “red” product, Avaya will need to counter its competitor’s aggressive discounts with similarly price offerings keeping the profit margins thin. That being said, Avaya will do quite well in 2011 in both product segments.
This past year saw Cisco become somewhat on an enigma, excelling in the enterprise space while conversely floundering in the SME market space. As this past year drew to a close, however, it finally seemed that Cisco was starting to understand what it needed to do to win the SME space. So a quick note to Cisco for 2011: The SME and enterprise markets are very different, meaning that one standard approach to product innovation and advancement simply won’t do.
With that said, the next release of the UC540 and UC560 seems to have more of what SME business customers are looking for: ease of install and lots of intuitive and easy-to-use features all packaged into a great price point. For 2011 this means that Cisco will continue to fight for market share and will spend considerable dollars to make inroads into the SME market space, and although the Cisco product remains expensive and difficult to engineer, I believe it will succeed.
The California-based provider of commercial, closed-source VoIP products is exceptionally nimble and sports an excellent product that is easy to install, sell, and deploy, all of which has resulted in ShoreTel growing faster than average market growth rates. ShoreTel has traditionally done very well in the small and medium market space but has yet to be able to effectively transition that success into the larger enterprise market, if for no other reason than it takes considerable time to break into the very large (1,000 plus) market and gain its trust.
That said, however, ShoreTel has progressively grown quarter by quarter this past year and will soon surpass $200 million in sales, the “magic” number that I believe will help it gain credibility in the large enterprise market. Unfortunately for the Canadian readers of TheTelecomblog.com, ShoreTel’s success south of the border simply hasn’t translated into a similar achievement in the Canadian market.
The reality is that ShoreTel simply hasn’t made the necessary investment in to the Canadian market…yet. Its success in the Canadian market will depend on ShoreTel securing a local Canadian distributor, opening a Canadian office (a real office, not simply a post office box) with local Canadian management, a Canadian dollar price book, and a local Canadian sales force. I do suspect that all of this will come to fruition in 2011, and if it does, ShoreTel will be the company to watch.
But all the news for 2011 isn’t good, and this next year will certainly see its fair share of telecom losers as well. To read Part 2 of this post click here.www.digitcom.ca