Now this has little to do about being an email client, which is something I think will disappear in the coming years, but really about a big development in communications tools for productivity workers. Yes Microsoft is at it again, playing its hand at convergence, and positioning itself to again enter and then dominate a market.
While the established incumbents (Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, Siemens, etc…) have little to fear in the short term from Microsoft. The long term, on the other hand, is where Microsoft traditionally kicks ass. The advantage that the current situation presents for the existing vendors is that they have Microsoft’s playbook to learn from and adapt to, long before Microsoft’s product matures and penetrates the market to the point where they are no longer relevant. To do this, Microsoft has to have missed important features in the product, has stability problems out of the gate, does not scale well, and so on. Further, current vendors also need to take their existing products and cut costs, trim the need for hardwired phones, promote the utility of softphones, and demonstrate QoS on their system over Microsoft’s.
If the current vendors don’t change and adapt to the Microsoft “threat”, they’ll follow the same trend as other software and service markets Microsoft has entered. Microsoft dominates a market because it brings “good enough” functionality to large numbers of customers, at very competitive pricing.
No matter what, this is an important move by Microsoft, and will bring the competition to the IP Telephony market that it has long been missing. Innovation by all parties should follow with better products at better price points. The integration of VoIP (along with IM and Web Conferencing) into the Office System family products will bring another level of productivity and efficiency to productivity workers.