Cisco CEO John Chambers has thrown down the gauntlet.
At Cisco's Partner Summit in Las Vegas this week, Chambers told the press corps in attendance that he believes Cisco has a three-year lead on Microsoft in the unified communications space.
And, according to TechIQ Magazine's "VAR Guy," who was at the April 4 Chambers press conference, Chambers added fuel to the fire, by claiming: "We’ve never lost a game when we’ve had a three-year lead… It’s a battle we fully intend to win.”
As the VAR Guy notes, promising you are going to bury Microsoft in a market is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. It often takes a challenge to get Microsoft in gear.
Chambers is promising to deliver more of those mom-and-apple-pie things, like "open architecture, simplicity and interoperability" with its Web conferencing, VOIP, wireless, switching and social-networking products.
One of Cisco's secret weapons in its Microsoft battle may be an alliance with Apple, the VAR Guy says.
"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....
"While he didn’t guarantee an Apple-Cisco relationship for unified communications, (Chambers) 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."
Microsoft's Business Division is obsessed with unified communications. That's not surprising, given that Microsoft needs to grow the market around Office, since Office already completely dominates the desktop-PC suite market (with more than 90 percent market share).
In a recent interview with News.com, Microsoft Business Division President Jeff Raikes said the amount of R&D investment Microsoft is putting into unified communications and VOIP "is the largest R&D investment beyond what we do in the core of Office" in his business unit.
But is Microsoft obsessing over the right products and technologies to whittle away Cisco's self-proclaimed three-year lead?