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2/20/2007
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Melanie Turek
Melanie Turek
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Recent Acquisitions Show Vendors Getting Deeper into Unified Communications

In the past few weeks, several acquisitions have occurred that highlight the growing trend toward unified communications. The moves—made by big players in their once easily defined markets—show that market leaders are aggressively pursuing new technologies that lie outside their traditional purview, but which build on their portfolios, getting each vendor one step closer to truly integrated, out-of-the-box UC applications.

Last week, Polycom announced that it has signed a definitive agreement under which Polycom will acquire SpectraLink, the market leader in enterprise Voice over Wireless Local Area Network (VoWLAN) devices, for $220 million in cash. The announcement is seen as a significant development for the fast growing wireless telephony market, but it also positions Polycom to stake a claim in the emerging market to extend unified communications to wireless devices. Initially, SpectraLink’s strong OEM arrangements with IP Telephony companies such as Alcatel, Avaya, Inter-Tel, NEC, and Mitel will strengthen Polycom’s strategic relationships with PBX vendors. At the same time, the acquisition will open up partnership opportunities for SpectraLink with Microsoft and IBM. Although it’s too soon to say what products will emerge from the union, SpectraLink phones could be strengthened by Polycom's advanced audio codec technology, eventually letting SpectraLink phones offer wideband audio support. Downstream, we might also see further support for instant messaging and web and video conferencing, allowing Polycom to deliver unified communications outside and inside the enterprise.

Also last week, Cisco announced a definitive agreement to acquire privately held Five Across; terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Five Across platform, Connect Community Builder, lets companies populate their Websites with user communities and content such as blogs, podcasts, and profiles, making for a stickier, more interactive customer experience. Presumably, Cisco will initially focus its sales efforts for the software on media and entertainment companies, and then on other customer-focused businesses. But one wonders whether the networking giant will eventually offer the technology as part of a broader intra-company offering, for enterprises to use to support its employees and partners. If it does, it could be positioned to compete with IBM Lotus’s new Connections product.

Finally, Adobe recently acquired Antepo, Inc., which developed the Antepo Open Presence Network (OPN) System, a hosted platform for enterprise IM and presence capabilities. This, combined with Adobe’s Acrobat Connect, a new hosted web conferencing service, positions the vendor to offer a truly integrated collaborative experience, along with strong document management capabilities. The missing piece? Voice. Separately, Adobe also recently acquired certain assets of privately held Amicima, Inc., which develops Internet protocols for client-server and peer-to-peer networking that supports one-to-one and group communication, quality-of-service prioritization and latency control for multimedia communication. It will be interesting to see how Amicima’s peer-to-peer technology changes and expands the collaborative capabilities of Acrobat products.

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