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Some Highlights Next Week

When I interviewed Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy last week (transcript here), I was particularly struck by this comment: "My first day at work [at Avaya] was the first of January, and in January we had a bankruptcy of one of the competitors in the marketplace. We had another competitor sort of up the ante in the way they're playing and declare their intentions in the server world. And so the competitive environment actually changed quite a bit."Now, there had certainly been reports throughout the previous months about the severity of Nortel's financial troubles and the likelihood of Cisco's entry into the server business. So it's not like Kennedy was blindsided by these developments; he surely knew something like this was likely to occur early in his tenure at Avaya. But the industry really has changed significantly just in the last two months.

Nortel is the most obvious example. The selloff of Nortel's enterprise business out of Chapter 11, if and when it occurs, will make industry consolidation a reality, no longer just a prospect. A huge chunk of the North American installed base will change hands, and these customers will either stick with the new owner-possibly Avaya, possibly Siemens, possibly neither-or else those customers will flee to another established vendor-most likely either Avaya or Cisco, at least in the case of the largest enterprises.

In this regard, this comment of Kennedy's about Avaya's aggressive push to win Nortel accounts was noteworthy: "There are two forms of engagement. One is end customers and the other would be channel partners. And I'd say that while we have seen positive outcomes on both, I'd say the one that I was surprised at the speed of engagement and response was specifically on the channel side." He went on to say that in a sense this really isn't all that surprising; channel partners crave certainty in a situation like this.

Kevin Kennedy is giving the opening keynote at VoiceCon Orlando next Tuesday, March 31, and I expect him to offer more perspectives on the changes he's seen in his brief tenure at Avaya, as well as offering keynote-staple items like company announcements and industry perspectives. That big-picture view is also what I'm expecting to hear from Padmasree Warrior, CTO at Cisco, who will follow Kevin Kennedy on the keynote stage next Tuesday.

Certainly Cisco has a much broader position in the industry than Avaya, as Kevin Kennedy acknowledged with his allusion to the Cisco Unified Computing announcement. We have a great column up on No Jitter from Tom Nolle, a longtime Cisco watcher, analyzing what he thinks Cisco's up to with its recent moves into servers and consumer video.

I don't know exactly what Ms. Warrior will be saying in her keynote, but we got a little hint from her Twitter feed last week, when she asked her followers: "Thinking about my keynote at Voicecon. If you had to make one big prediction for the 'Future of Collaboration' what would it be?" My response to her was that her tweet partly answered her own
question: Twitter is an example of the ad hoc, real-time or near-real-time, "crowd-sourced" communication that will make up part (but only part) of the future of collaboration.

Of course, because it was Twitter, I only had 140 characters, so I said it with much less nuance than that. Twitter isn t, by itself, the future of collaboration, and much of what we'll be doing and hearing about at VoiceCon Orlando will deal with the more formal, feature-rich and higher-performance collaboration systems that enterprises are building on top of their communications infrastructures.

So I hope to see you at VoiceCon next week, by which I mean I hope I actually get to meet you. In the past, I've told you to look for the guy in the (sniff) BCR shirt, or the tall guy with the bad haircut. This year, you can follow me on Twitter and send out a tweet. We can do a meetup, or Tweetup, or whatever it is the kids are calling it these days.The industry really has changed significantly just in the last two months.