The fierce competition between Cisco Systems and Microsoft in the converging IP voice and data market, known as "unified communications," is escalating. Microsoft entered the market with the release of Office Communication Server 2007 in October, but the software giant has a more extended history with IP technology.
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Video is seen as a key area of growth for Cisco Systems. "If you're looking to something to create the next wave of network upgrades, video is front and center. It drives bandwidth like we've never seen before," Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala said.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates demonstrated software that unifies the disparate functions of instant messaging, telephony and e-mail on a single screen, making for easier access. One tech analyst speculated that Microsoft hopes the new communications tool will give corporate customers a new reason to upgrade their Office software.