Alcatel SA has unveiled an integration of its My Teamwork real-time collaboration platform with Microsoft Corp’s Office Communicator that enables users to initiate and take part in multi-party audio, video, and web conferences.
The French vendor, like its peers in the telecoms and networking equipment market, can be said to be in competition with Microsoft in the collaboration market, in that the Redmond, Washington-based ISV has its Office Communications Server for that space.
Like its fellow equipment makers, it can tout its platform’s ability to integrate with its PBX product, OmniPCX Enterprise, as well as those of its competitors, to enable calls to other IP phones, as well as conventional circuit-switched ones known as PSTN break-out. But Microsoft itself works with all the leading IP PBX vendors to enable users of OCS and the Communicator client to place calls to people not using the Microsoft software, whether on IP or PSTN phones.
Alcatel must therefore tout other differentiating factors to market My Teamwork, and Michael Hardiman, director of global accounts for the collaboration platform at the Paris-based company, highlighted two.
First, and something he claimed to be unique in the sector, even though it is sold as server software, he said My Teamwork is entirely web-based from the end user’s perspective. Once the server is deployed in a corporate network, the employees access it via their browser, entering their user name and password in order to enter an SSL tunnel to the platform. All the other leading collaboration vendors including Microsoft, Cisco, and Nortel, require clients on phones, PCs, and laptops in order for users to access their platforms.
Second, he said My Teamwork can offer multi-party conferencing. This is not unique to Alcatel but does differentiate the PBX vendors from Microsoft in collaboration. Office Communicator does peer-to-peer VoIP calling, but doesn’t have an embedded audio conferencing capability, said Hardiman, adding that he does not expect Microsoft to add it any time soon, either. It’s not really their focus, as they expect conferencing to be offered by a service provider. The hosted conferencing capability can be with third-party software on a carrier’s network, or the conferencing service platform Microsoft itself acquired when it bought PlaceWare in 2003.
Aside from the competition with other collaboration platform vendors, Alcatel also sees My Teamwork as a rival offering to the conferencing-as-a-service providers like WebEx Communications Inc. It highlighted the lower TCO of on-premise conferencing and collaboration vis-a-vis the SaaS alternative. Hardiman said Alcatel will make My Teamwork even more compelling in the next release, when it will support deployments onto servers costing as little as $2,000.