Avaya CEO on changes, competition

Lois D'Ambrosio discusses Avaya's business and the enterprise VoIP market

How is Avaya adapting to the changing telephony market, as Cisco continues to gain market share, and now Microsoft is emerging as a serious competitor?

I would describe one of those companies as a competitor, and one as a partner. Microsoft is a partner of Avaya. We have opportunities for companies to leverage the Microsoft desktop, then click into the Avaya communication suite. We provide interoperability because it makes sense for customers; it makes for both of our companies businesses. I've met with folks from Microsoft to continue to talk about ways to expand the partnership.

Interestingly, we do partner with Cisco in many instances where they have the data network, and we are providing the IP telephony on top. When there are customer service issues, it is not unusual for us and Cisco to get on a call together and solve those issues. But when it comes to IP telephony solutions, for sure, they are a competitor. But we have very different approaches to the market. Cisco's primary focus is on anything that could expand the use or need to build capacity in the network. Avaya's focus is on bringing the value-created applications, on top of IP telephony, to help create business impact for organizations.

How is Avaya's partnership with Microsoft different from what Nortel and Microsoft are doing with the Innovative Communications Alliance [ICA]?

The difference was that with Nortel, there is more of a financial aspect to that alliance. With us and Microsoft, there is a partnership that is built around the interoperability of technology. I think at the end of the day, that generates financial benefits to both organizations.

A senior executive at Avaya has said that the deal Nortel made with Microsoft around shared R&D, intellectual property, marketing and services was offered to Avaya first, but the company turned it down. Can you comment on that?

I'm not going to comment on other articles. But what I will say is that we have a strong partnership with Microsoft. The partnership is focused more on leveraging the feature-rich functionality we have, the 100-year part of our company, with the ubiquitous presence that Microsoft has on the desktop.

In light of the ICA, Avaya's relationship with Microsoft, and Cisco's own Microsoft partnering efforts, is there any confusion among customers as to which IP telephony vendor they should choose if integration with Microsoft is a priority?

Customers will decide. For example, I was with a large financial services organization recently. They have adopted the Avaya IP telephony solution as their standard. The questions were solely around the degree in which we're able to integrate with Microsoft -- not about their potential to switching to Nortel or anything like that. We have been on multiple joint-sales calls with Microsoft and customers. If there is a greenfield opportunity, I can't talk about who Microsoft would recommend -- us or another [IP telephony provider]. But I can say that in the situations we've been in with them, they have been a good partner. Partnerships are built out of mutual benefits.

We also have a very strong partnership with IBM. In addition to integrating at the desktop, the IBM partnership also extends to a much broader, go-to-market relationship. We have a very tight alliance with IBM on the services side. IBM is a reseller of Avaya solutions.

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