While it's still early days, Australian companies are quickly warming to UC. In fact, Gartner research vice-president, Geoff Johnson, believes we are just as advanced as any economy in Europe or North America. However, as no one vendor is able to provide a complete UC solution - and are not expected to do so for the next three years - there is a vital need for partnering and cooperation between suppliers over the coming years.
"The most frequently asked question we are asked as analysts by our enterprise clients is whether they should use Microsoft or Cisco," Johnson said.
"Gartner characterises the question as choosing between the two parallel worlds of traditional network equipment vendors or from IT platform providers. Both must be used today in a partnership."
Cisco and Microsoft took the leading positions in Gartner's 2007 Magic Quadrant, which outlines the analyst firm's view on the UC competitive landscape. While reluctant to disclose this year's rankings, Johnson noted the main changes in the sector were more complete solutions and differentiation between countries in the use of UC.
"For example, China has recently acquired wide broadband access and sees UC as a convenient means of managing voice, video and Web conferencing along with other modes of communications," Johnson explained. "Countries that are more challenged for bandwidth - like Indonesia, Thailand or Vietnam - expect to use UC to manage messaging like email, IM, SMS, telephony and mobile calls."
In terms of the Australian channel, however, Johnson said players needed to realise in advance who the leading vendors will be and assess the impact this will have on their own operations.
"On balance and over the longer term Gartner sees UC as a convenient toolset which will be used to manage all component communications in a business and will prove to be invaluable in facilitating communications-enabled business processes from 2010," Johnson said.
"The net of all this is that system integrators are more likely to be prime contractors and network integrators more likely to act as their sub-contractors within the channels. Most resellers we discuss this concept with readily appreciate that situation and expect to have to make major changes in the structure and composition of their current businesses within the next two years as a result.