Demand has risen among businesses seeking better ways for its employees to communicate and work together, especially in this virtual world. To address that need, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft announced plans at Interop Las Vegas on Tuesday to expand their existing partnership to offer enhanced communication tools and services to customers.
Frontline Partnership, the collaboration between HP and Microsoft, was set up 20 years ago to ensure that products from both companies would work together. A new four-year expansion of that partnership will spend up to $180 million to develop new tools and technologies for Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC). UCC is an industrywide initiative designed to help business employees communicate and work with each other more effectively, both inside and outside the office.
HP and Microsoft plan to invest in new UCC products and services and to join forces on sales and marketing. They see the initiative as a way for businesses to cut down on costs, especially for travel and telecom. "Together, we are offering the extensive breadth of capabilities of our respective technologies to deliver a truly unified communications and collaboration solution to help our customers improve business productivity," said Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft Business Division.
Products that will be touched by the expanded Frontline effort include Microsoft's Office SharePoint Server, Exchange Server, and Office Communications Server, as well as HP's ProCurve networking gear and dx9000 TouchSmart Business PC.
The demand for UCC is expected to continue growing. A February 2009 report from market research firm Forrester sees the UCC market hitting $14.5 billion among businesses in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific by 2015, a growth rate of almost 36 percent each year. However, the report noted that customers want to see the benefit and return on investment before committing the money and resources.
HP and Microsoft face stiff competition from other firms vying to provide UCC tools for customers. Last year, IBM said that it would invest $1 billion in this area over the next three years. Networking giant Cisco is also seen as eager to compete with Microsoft in key areas, notably UCC.