IBM, Nortel Are New UC Buddies

Vendors hope to grab -- what else? -- market share.

Just one month after announcing a $1 billion R&D effort in unified communications (UC), IBM (NYSE: IBM) is expanding its partnership with Nortel Networks (NYSE: NT) to provide UC capabilities to the small and mid-sized business.

The effort comes nine months after the two vendors launched their UC alliance and is the latest shot at market rivals such as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). All the players are aiming to peel off a slice of the SMB marketplace.

The SMB offering, which pulls Nortel's IP telephony application into IBM's generation of Power Systems processors, is aimed at branch offices of 30 to 500 employees.

It features integration with IBM Lotus Sametime, IBM Lotus Notes and Domino on a single IBM platform. Beginning this month, the Nortel Software Communication System will be available on System i, and on Power Systems later in this quarter.

IBM declined to provide specific pricing, stating only that it would be sold on a per-seat basis.

The news carries a bit of irony. IBM is using the same IP telephony partner that Microsoft is leaning on these days: Nortel. Nortel and Microsoft launched their communications alliance back in 2006, and last month rolled out new unified communications services.

Partnering with such computer titans is a plus for Nortel, but it doesn't necessarily guarantee IBM or Microsoft market share.

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