This Reuters piece seems to get it about right. The short version: The coming of unified communications (UC) -- the mix of voice, video and data communications platforms aimed at enabling people to connect more easily using a wider variety of devices in more locations -- is upsetting a lot of the old verities.
It's a familiar story. Companies go into business and thrive. They have a set retinue of partners and a stable of competitors. The next big thing comes along, and planners map a corporate strategy.
Companies from each group -- friends and foes -- cross over and move into the opposite camp. The original business remains, however, so the result is a confused mix of companies that simultaneously work with and against each other.
This is happening now in Internet time. This week, Cisco and Microsoft announced acquisitions of conferencing vendor WebEx and voice recognition company Tellme, respectively.
These are but the latest examples of how UC and the overall advance of IP-based platforms are eradicating the lines.
Microsoft -- through its partnership with Nortel and just about everything else it does --is working in a UC-based framework. The same can be said for Cisco, which is always buying companies. Two that come to mind in this regard are Linksys and Scientific-Atlanta.
Clearly, all the players are choosing sides, and have been for a long time. What's the difference between that and going after the market labeled "unified communications?" Nothing -- except, perhaps, that's it's now been given a catchy marketing label.