In Microsoft’s Q2 earnings call on January 31, CEO Satya Nadella got to the topic of “voice” very early in his remarks, noting “We’re making voice a first-class input for productivity.” But he was talking about voice with regards to Cortana, making his case for the importance of a digital personal assistant to whom one can dictate and from which schedules, email and news can be read.
Nadella never really talked about Teams, the collaboration platform Microsoft has been promoting since last year. CFO Amy Hood did, in response to an analyst’s question, mentioning that Teams was “getting some strong adoption.” But otherwise Microsoft’s executives didn’t have much to say about the UC world and instead spent most of their time talking about cloud or AI services – or both.
Similarly, in their most recent earnings call, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins barely mentioned UC at all except to mention that their acquisition of Broadsoft was pending. When voice was mentioned it was in the context of cloud or AI services that might apply, such as with Spark Assistant.
Both companies are, by their commentary, making it clear that what we view as traditional UC is no longer strategic for them. Sure, both companies want to continue making sales for their UC products. But Teams or Spark are no longer part of their visionary narratives.
Why does this matter? As anyone from these large companies knows, investment, talent, and energy follow vision. I worry that UC has retreated into BCG’s “cash cow” quadrant in terms of UC’s growth share matrix, which suggests we aren’t going to see much more direct investment in the UC products themselves. Other services – such as personal digital assistants and AI – will now be brought to UC as these companies seek to invest in newer products and reap ancillary value for the UC cash cow.
What this means for the UC channel is that to stay aligned with Microsoft and Cisco their partners need to focus on and embrace these new services. In the UC world this means learning more about and offering services around Azure AI or Cisco’s Spark Assistant. These new services are likely where partner programs and incentives are going to be the most lucrative – and where the Microsoft and Cisco sales teams are going to put most of their focus.
That’s what their CEOs are telling Wall Street, in any event.
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