April 4, 2007
Instead of setting up the scene, The VAR Guy will cut right to the chase: During a Q&A with press that’s continuing right now, Cisco CEO John Chambers just described the showdown with Microsoft in the unified communications space. He said: “Microsoft has given us a three-year lead. And we’ve never lost a game when we’ve had a three-year lead. … It’s a battle we fully intend to win.”Here’s more on the Q&A…
Chambers certainly sounds confident. But let’s be careful here, John: Novell had 65 percent market share before Microsoft came along and destroyed the NetWare business.
The scene is the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas at the Cisco Partner Summit. The VAR Guy is seated with about 100 other members of the press. Chambers believes Cisco has several advantages in the unified communications market. He stated that unified communications will be “enabled more and more through networking and that will drive the direction of the market.” In order to maintain a leg up on rivals, he promised that Cisco would deliver an “open architecture, simplicity and interoperability.”
Chambers noted that Cisco is making early inroads with SAP, Salesforce.com, Google and other Web 2.0 companies. He even hinted about mash-ups with a Google or Apple. Hmm – Apple. Stay tuned for more on that later from The VAR Guy.
Another key takeaway: Chambers believes unified communications and Web 2.0 are the biggest market transitions since the Internet took center stage a decade ago. He fully expects Cisco to succeed in those markets because of Cisco’s “internal innovations, acquisitions and partners.” Chambers noted that Cisco is now No. 1 in roughly 12 major product areas–from VoIP phones to wireless to switching and so forth.
Still, Chambers conceded that Cisco made mistakes in the past. Had the company executed more efficiently in the early VoIP market, Cisco would have even greater market share today, he conceded. “We thought a phone switch out was a PC switch out but it’s a process change … we underestimated this.”
Looking ahead, Chambers does not believe it will be an entirely mobile market. Users will have wired and wireless, and they don’t want to worry about configuring which system they’re on, he says.
Now, onto The VAR Guy’s favorite subject: Apple. Chambers hinted that Cisco is making progress with Apple in terms of unified communications running on Apple iPhones. He downplayed the recent lawsuit over the iPhone name, which has been settled. The lawsuit, he noted, “was a small bump. It wasn’t a major issue for either one of us.”
While he didn’t guarantee an Apple-Cisco relationship for unified communications, he said “I’d be surprised if we don’t make progress on several fronts.” However, he thinks the ultimate decision for interoperability rests with Apple. “We’re a believer in interoperability.”
Overall, Chambers was quite bullish during the session. But was he over confident? “We know you can fall from grace in two years but it may take five years to play out.”
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