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Microsoft announcement at VoiceCon fuels Cisco rivalry

By Barbara Darrow

Never one to let an event go by without putting in its two cents, Microsoft said at VoiceCon today that six companies, including Intel, LG-Nortel, Polycom and Texas Instruments, are licensing its RT Audio Codec for use in their audio conferencing, gaming and wireless-over-IP wares.

The company also said it will officially launch its Office Live Communications Server 2007 on Oct.16 with Bill Gates and Jeff Raikes sharing the keynote honors.

This product — which melds VoIP, instant messaging and Web conferencing — represents a heightened rivalry with Cisco. Yesterday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Cisco CEO John Chambers talked up the need for their two companies to work well with others. Including each other. Interesting that they chose to make this disclosure the same day they chatted very publicly with PBS’ Charlie Rose.

But the fact that both companies will offer the same functionality means that partners with limited resources may feel the need to align with one or the other.

Given the huge reach of Microsoft and Cisco, it’s inevitable that the two would end up facing off. As a slew of Microsoft execs said at the company’s worldwide partner conference, the company will compete strongly with rivals where it can win business, but when the customer opts for a rival product, it must also promise — and deliver — good citizenship (e.g., interoperability with other wares in mixed environments). Thus, as always, parts of Microsoft compete with SAP, Oracle, Sony, IBM, insert-your-company-of-choice-or-the-free-and-open-software-movement here, while other parts of Microsoft will woo and support them.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area journalist, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.

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