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Microsoft and Nortel pair up on ‘Shared Vision’

An alliance to create a business service that combines communications technologies in an effort to simplify how workers communicate, has been signed by Microsoft and Nortel Networks.

The technology giants have pledged a four-year agreement that will allow, for the first time, cross-licensing of intellectual property for a new “unified communications” system. The companies said the new system would improve communications networks and help cut business costs.

The Canadian network specialist said it expects to create in excess of $1bn in new revenue during the four-year pact.

According to the pair, the goal of the pact is to replace the archaic office PBX and all its bolt-ons such as voice-mail etc. More familiar digital communications systems such as e-mail and IM will be converged into a single software platform based on Microsoft software products such as Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 unified messaging.

Nortel said it will move its traditional business phone systems onto Microsoft’s unified communications software platform, adding additional functionality with its own software.

The key thrust behind the announcement is the unification process which Nortel described in a joint webcast as “next generation enterprise communications”. The plan is to combine IP services, such as IM, video and audio conferencing as well as email and voice into a single platform and, importabtly for the enterprise user, a single presence. In theory, at least, this should be a simple tweak for Microsoft which already provides its Live Messenger service which links myriad functions to its Hotmail consumer product.

The companies said they will create joint teams to research and develop products specifically for fixed, wireless and enterprise networks.

Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s business division, said the alliance represents a “long-term” goal for Microsoft and was simply a response to demand: “The demand from customers for unified communications solutions is starting to grow, and both companies believe we can accelerate delivery of new solutions by working together. Both companies have also spent significant time together in the last 12 months and realise they share the same vision for unified communications and have complementary assets.”


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