This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

Survey says? It’s pretty much a two-horse race.

Close your eyes and queue up the Family Feud music and picture Richard Dawson (or Steve Harvey for you youngsters) coming out to another episode of the Family Feud game show: “A total of 329 people surveyed, top four answers on the board–Which vendor do you feel is the leader in voice?”

Player 1 responds, “Microsoft”.

“Survey Says!”–Ding! Microsoft scores Number 4 with 9.7% of the respondent base.

Player 2 answers “Cisco”–Ding! Number one answer with 62.3% of the market.

The other two answers are revealed, with Avaya holding the Number 2 spot with 17.3% and “Others” being number 3 at 10.6%

That data and more comes from a joint survey conducted earlier this year by ZK Research and Tech Target. We asked the question, “Which vendor do you feel is a leader in the following categories?” and we gave the respondents the same four choices on each question: Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya, and all “Others”. The survey base was a mix of network managers, traditional telecom buyers, and IT individuals, so no vendor had an advantage based on a natural bias from the respondent base. As with all surveys, some answers were surprising and others were not.

The bottom line: When it comes to UC broadly defined (as opposed to just voice), there is obviously no single leader, as the term UC actually describes a collection of different collaboration tools. However, each particular application or tool can have its own perceived leaders and laggers.

The response above for voice wasn’t a huge surprise. Cisco dominates VoIP today and Avaya has become the de facto number two vendor. I was a little surprised to see “others” score higher than Microsoft, since much of the upgrades to Lync over the past few releases have been voice-related. However, from what I’ve seen in the field, the majority of Lync deployments are for chat and presence, with VoIP being delivered by another vendor or road-mapped in.

Video was also dominated by Cisco, as they captured 53.8% of the respondents. Microsoft was surprisingly strong in with the Number 2 spot with 20.7%, and “Others” were ranked 3rd with 17%. It’s worth noting that Lync video is actually a combination of Microsoft plus a second vendor such as Polycom or LifeSize, so one could argue that maybe the Lync number should be higher. However you slice it though, Cisco dominates the mindshare for video–which shouldn’t be a huge surprise based on historical buying patterns and marketing spend. But I do think Cisco needs to articulate its product roadmap or vision soon, or this number will slip.

Microsoft dominated cloud, garnering 40.7% of the responses for the top spot, ahead of “Others” (30.7%) and Cisco (25.2%). Seeing Microsoft as the perceived leader wasn’t a huge a surprise, as the company has a number of cloud products related to UC, including Lync Online, Office 365, Skype, SharePoint Online and cloud-based Exchange. Cisco’s strength lies in the WebEx installed base, and the company has been aggressively pushing its Hosted Communications Services (HCS) into the telcos, but many customers may not be aware that Cisco is the infrastructure behind many of the UCaaS offerings today. Bottom line: In no way do I think the battle for cloud UC is a fait accompli, but Microsoft does appear to have the inside track right now.

Mobility was interesting in that the “Others” category actually took the top spot with over 40% of the responses. Cisco (24.9%) and Microsoft (23.4%) were virtually tied, which actually supports my thesis that none of the UC vendors today lead with mobile. Key theme here is that there is more work to be done by all the UC vendors.

Presence was a bit of surprise, with Cisco slightly edging out Microsoft, although they were percentage points from each other (see the table at the end of this post for the full results). Microsoft owns the desktop buyer and because of that I would expect them to have been the runaway leader in presence. However, Cisco has improved Jabber greatly and has better multi-OS capabilities, meaning Cisco’s surprising strength here could be based on mobile presence.

I asked about UC applications as well, and to no surprise, Microsoft grabbed the Number 1 spot with 36.8% of the responses. Cisco fared reasonably well with 29.2% of the responses and Others came in at 26.1%. Cisco’s strength with developers is largely due to its market share rather than the quality of the Cisco Developer Network. CDN is getting better but is still light years away from where the Microsoft Developer program is.

Avaya was a disappointing Number 4 with only 7.9%. I say Avaya’s position is disappointing as there’s really been no vendor that has been more aggressive with UC applications than Avaya. DevConnect is a great program and the addition of Nortel’s ACE gave the company a great platform to develop on. However, building developer mindset is long, slow process, so the upside will come for Avaya if the company is willing to be patient.

The other two areas that were surveyed were call center and conferencing, both of which I thought offered no real surprises. Cisco was the conferencing leader with almost half the respondents, with Microsoft being a distant number 2 at 20%. Cisco also took the number 1 spot with call center, which perhaps was a surprise given Avaya’s strength here, but it is an area that Cisco has been aggressively trying to take business in over the past five years.

I included the chart below so everyone can see the exact numbers. What does all this mean? Well, each vendor will leverage their areas of strength to gain a footprint within the customer base and then look to grow the UC investment from there. Ultimately though, I think the data screams loud and clear that customers want Cisco and Microsoft and, in a sense, enabling this multi-vendor environment is the biggest challenge for both companies. Solving that may create the rising tide that both companies are looking for.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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