One key vision of the Microsoft-Nortel Networks strategic partnership announced Tuesday is the transition of traditional business phone systems into software that integrates with Nortel Internet telephony software and hardware.
Sorry but I have trouble getting excited over this announcement.
Cisco already does the Internet phone hardware-software integration thing, much of it very well and under their own corporate flag and power, thank you.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has shown they don't have a clue what to do with enterprise VoIP, and even less of an idea how to get into the consumer VoIP business.
On the enterprise side, Microsoft is simply throwing Internet telephony functionality into this sprawling colossus of Live Communications Server and hoping something sticks rather than enable this functionality inside existing Office utilities.
To me this seems as though Nortel was looking for a way to compete against archrival Cisco, and they found a willing partner in Microsoft.
So now Nortel comes to them with what sounds like a direction. In the best case scenario, this integration will help push forward Microsoft's grand goal of gathering together pretty much every communictions application: instant messaging, telephony, email and others into a single platform.
But it is a direction only if this four-year plan is flawlessly and deftly executed.
Given Microsoft's poor execution (Windows Vista, anyone?) and Nortel's very different corporate culture, I don't see an alliance that will successfully fulfill this vision.
Instead I see an alliance between a technology company trying to fumble around and find its place in a sector it doesn't fully understand (telecom and communications) and a company that is overmatched and needs to find a partner.