Tracey Carter, vice president of operations at Starnet Data Design, a Westlake Village, Calif., Cisco VAR, said that if Cisco is serious about serving the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market, it should sync up with smaller network integrators that have already infiltrated that sector.
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"We've had a difficult relationship with Cisco; I've been trying to reach my channel account manager (CAM) to try and get help winning business that is otherwise going to go to an e-tailer," Carter said. "It's to the CAM's advantage to work with me on this. Yet I can't even find out who he or she is."
Another key concern is how Cisco will compete with Microsoft in unified communications, where both tech giants are making a huge push. There's still ambiguity over how Microsoft and Cisco will collaborate and how they will compete in the UC area, said Ethan Simmons, president of NetTeks Technology Consultants Inc., a Boston-based Cisco Silver partner. "It's a gray area, and it's causing confusion about how partners should market Cisco offerings," he said. His personal opinion: "Microsoft's UC stuff isn't fully baked, and Microsoft will feel the same pain of being an early adopter that Cisco has already lived through."
"We'd really like to see Cisco and Microsoft figure this one out," Buchanan said. "With Microsoft on the desktop, and Cisco providing the infrastructure, they'd be so powerful that no one could touch them. But their R&D efforts are on two different tracks."
Buchanan said he is "absolutely committed" to Cisco in VoIP. "It would just make things so much easier if Microsoft were playing with Cisco instead of Nortel," he said.
Microsoft has "fabulous" products in the pipeline, said McNutt, who is a Microsoft Gold partner as well as a Cisco Premier reseller. "But the profit pie is not nearly what it is with Cisco UC products," she said. "Because everything is for sale on the Internet, Microsoft is not protecting its partner investments in expertise."
Still, she admitted, "it's a Microsoft world. They own the desktop, they own the operating system and, eventually, they will probably win on UC as well." Cisco has to become less proprietary while trying to protect its hardware sales, she said. "They don't want to win the battle but lose the war because they refuse to open things up. That would be a big mistake."