Gartner's 'Magic Quadrant for UC' - Cisco Bests Microsoft - Not!

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Gartner's 'Magic Quadrant for UC' - Cisco Bests Microsoft - Not!

Gartner recently posted their Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications along with their analysis of the UC market. As always Gartner's research is a fascinating and insightful read, but I do take slight issue where they positioned Cisco and Microsoft. First let's take a look at the Magic Quadrant:
You will see that Cisco and Microsoft are nearly touching one another and the top two companies within the Magic Quadrant, but Cisco slightly beats Microsoft in both the "leaders" and "visionaries" categories. I don't take issue with Cisco in the "leaders" category, since clearly Cisco has been doing enterprise VoIP, video conferencing and indeed UC longer than Microsoft with many more deployments.

I do however take issue with Cisco beating Microsoft in the "visionaries" category. Microsoft' UC Client (Lync) is tightly integrated to the user's desktops, which use Outlook (e-mail, calendar and contacts) and Office collaboration tools (SharePoint and Word, Excel, PowerPoint). Microsoft also has strong mobile capabilities such as mobile Lync apps, plus an entire mobile operating system (Windows Phone 8) and tablet operating system (Windows 8) at their disposal. Not to say Cisco can't offer mobile apps on Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8 tablets, but clearly Microsoft can tightly integrate their Lync platform on mobile devices since they have access to the underlying operating system. Further, Skype is part of the Microsoft family and which no doubt will be part of their future "vision" by announcing Lync-Skype integrations in the Lync 2013 release.

Microsoft's Office 365 offers cloud-based UC and Office apps with NO hardware required at the enterprise. Of course, Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) offers cloud-based UC as well, though it's not nearly as well known as Office 365 nor does HCS offer such a wide breadth of features. Cisco is still mostly a hardware company while Microsoft is mostly a software company. Of course, you could argue Cisco writes software for their hardware (routers, VoIP gateways, IP phones, etc.) and to work with 3rd party telepresence systems and 3rd party SIP IP phones.

If you're a Cisco shop with Cisco IP phones for instance running their proprietary Skinny protocol all is fine and dandy. But if you want to switch to the SIP standard there is the issue of having to PAY Cisco a license fee. Want to switch all your Cisco phones to use SIP firmware, you pay a license for that. Not exactly visionary to lock your customers in somewhat proprietary solutions.

Of course, the same could be argued for Microsoft's UC platform - Lync. It does use a proprietary client with proprietary codecs (RTAudio / RTVideo) and you need Microsoft Active Directory (proprietary). I would argue more enterprises are Microsoft shops that run Active Directory than enterprises that are Cisco shops that have Cisco equipment and don't have Active Directory. The goal is to offer an all-in-one that integrates your network (Cisco strength), with your network file security (Active Directory - Microsoft strength), with your communications (VoIP, video, IM - both Cisco & Microsoft strengths), and mobile (both are strong, but Microsoft has more future potential) so it's easy to manage (TCO). I would argue that Microsoft is better positioned for the future and is more "visionary".

The big difference I see is that Microsoft doesn't sell IP phone hardware while Cisco does and therefore has a vested interest in keeping users paying $150-$300 per IP phone. Cisco still wants you to buy desktop IP phones while Microsoft would rather you run their Lync softphone. That to me is visionary and why I think Microsoft deserves to be slightly ahead of Cisco in the visionaries section of the Magic Quadrant.

Disagree? Post a comment and tell me why I'm wrong.

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