16 thoughts on “Wah! Wah! Mommy, Skype won't play with me”

  1. It’s always easier to scale up than down, good for MS bad for Cisco.

    As to open, it becomes more and more synonymous with designed by committee and squabble forever. At one time it stood for free to tinker with.

  2. If I recall correctly, it was EU Commission that forced Cisco to open up TIP in order to approve the Tandberg acquisition so suppose Cisco hoping for similar.

    In addition to Cisco’s concerns about Skype moving “up market”, which I’m sure are significant as you state, would say the other aspect is Cisco’s desire to move “down market” where video endpoints go into the billions (add mobile phones)…

  3. So Cisco’s argument here is akin to companies that press vinyl records complaining that their product won’t work on ipods. Or that Kodak film doesn’t work in digital cameras. Or an TV antenna manufacturer stopping cable company mergers. Good God, Cisco has either bought technology or innovated in ways that have put SO MANY telephone equipment and network hardware companies out of business that for them to take this route is despicable.

    1. Totally agree! This is the innovators dilemma. When you have your core business at stake SaaS, commoditization of networking gear, software based UC- what can you do?

  4. How could anyone disagree that interoperability is key for video conferencing becoming more widely accepted and used in the marketplace. As more people use video as a daily tool, this will become a larger pain point and more important.

    One way to fix this is to have all of the vendors get together and use the same standards (like what Cisco is proposing). Another is to let the respective vendors innovate along their own lines but use a service provider to integrate all of the video islands, regardless of what standards or approaches are using.

    This is what our company, Vidtel, is doing and our service has been focused on solving this problem longer than anyone else in the market (since 2008). Today, we can integrate both Cisco and Skype video devices as well as others that support standards like SIP and H.323 as well as Google Talk through XMPP.

    Eventually there might be a single standard for video conferencing but with new players choosing different approaches (like Hookflash and Tango) and existing players moving further away from standards (like all the vendors with their pseudo-proprietary H.264 SVC implementations), the only practical way to skin this cat is though a network-based service stitching all of the major approaches together.

    Scott Wharton, CEO
    Vidtel, Inc.

    1. Er- isn’t that why the EU specified that Cisco-Tandberg open up TIP? Isn’t this why the more forward thinking companies have signed up to UCIF? Why are Cisco dragging their heels?

      Forget standards what wins in this game is adoption- I’m sure there are still supporters of Dvorak key boards, HD DVDs, OS/2, Sony betamax.

      While you are fighting the standards battle customers are adopting technology based on their business needs.

      Thanks for the advert for Vidtel. Best of luck turning back the tide.

    1. Steve: I agree that UCIF is doing important work to try to make the standards tighter. But the reality is that we already have many standards (e.g., SIP, H.323, XMPP) and even still many vendors (yes even those that belong to UCIF) are de facto deploying new approaches that are not compatible with everyone else (like Microsoft and Skype for example). So as Stu said below, hurray for standards and let’s pursue them but let’s also not wait around while the market and standards bodies are sorting themselves out.

  5. Scott is right. There is a role (and opportunity) for service providers to deliver the interoperability needed in video conferencing while the endpoint vendors remain focused on their core competencies. There are solutions out there already TODAY that can seamlessly bridge together these seemingly incompatible islands. Blue Jeans Network (http://bluejeans.com) for instance already has deployed a global service that brings together video participants on Cisco/Tandberg and Skype along with Microsoft Lync/OCS, Polycom, Lifesize, Sony, Huawei, etc…. and the good old fashioned PSTN too. We’re all for standards… but no reason to wait for the standards process to sort itself out.

  6. Excellent article. I remember a presentation I attended in 2007 or so (that was before OCS 2007 R2 was released), where a MSFT representative showed a pie chart of the UC market and its players as it was at the time. MS had a little fraction of the pie, the rest was distributed among the big boys. And then the guy said (quote): “This is not good. We want it the other way around”. Maybe Cisco (and a few others) should have taken that statement a little more serious.
    Here’s a study from Yankee Group of 2006: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/prod/collateral/voicesw/ps6788/vcallcon/ps556/prod_white_paper0900aecd8051ed29.pdf

    The conclusion they had was “Ultimately, this is not a Cisco or Microsoft decision. It’s
    more a decision about where to use each vendor. Both are
    committed to interoperability, as evidenced by the joint
    announcement between Cisco and Microsoft in March. The
    partnership announced interoperability between Cisco’s UC
    and Microsoft LCS/MOC. Users will get the benefits of
    some presence federation such as CUPS to LCS and the
    ability for MOC to access some Cisco services such as
    click-to-call. Therefore, customers that standardize on
    Outlook and MOC can use Cisco’s UC, and vice versa. This
    type of partnership enables organizations to leverage the
    strengths of each vendor for the best possible solution”.

    Yeah, sure. Anyone with eyes to see could recognize RIGHT THERE at this presentation, that Cisco was a mere stepping-stone for MSFT to market domination. I don’t mind (as a happy Lync user), but Cisco should stop kidding themselves.

  7. Microsoft is known for pushing regulation and anti-trust toits edge, so locking its 700 million customers base is well understandable and predictable.
    With the great promise of “standard communication for a better world”, the market is till dominated by giants with interests, who are much more powerful than regulation.

  8. Scott, I see it a bit differently.

    The UCIF is indeed doing work to make standards and RFCs more usable. Most RFCs incorporate a lot of “SHOULD” (as opposed to “MUST”) and other vague language that lead to perfectly reasonable vendors making different and incompatible implementations. Some vendors even have different interpretations across their business units (call control, gateways and applications for example), generally for historical reasons (acquisitions). Not to mention vendors that might use that vagueness to deliberately limit interoperability while still claiming standard compliance. UCIF aims to clarify that and to ensure (through verification and certification) that solutions will indeed be interoperable out of the box.

    One of the domains on which UCIF is making great progress is video, as mentioned by Steven Bruno. While you might be correct that gateways and services are a practical way to skin the cat at this narrow point in time, the reason they exist in the first place is because the standardization approaches of the past have been ineffective. That’s why the UCIF has a completely different approach.

    With the notable exception of Cisco/Tandberg, every significant vendor in this space has opted to participate in UCIF (that’s close to 40 vendors, see http://www.ucif.org/AboutUs/UCIForumMembers.aspx). The UCIF Task Group on Scalable Video Coding (SVC) has defined H.264 SVC UCIF-compliant unified communication systems, for which there were no preexisting standards for interoperability. If you have access to the ITU-T proceedings, you will be aware that in January of this year the ITU-T has approved incremental H.264 profiles that were submitted by the UCIF H.264 SVC task group. This will be documented here: http://www.itu.int/rec/T-REC-H.264.

    Hopefully this will result in practice in making H.264 SVC the default industry standard and natively interoperable codec. My understanding is that virtually all vendors in UCIF have expressed intent to adopt that new standard over time. Ultimately, virtually every device, smartphone, webcam, CPU and GPU in the world will support that standard natively, which will drive more vendors to use it and make video ubiquitous. This will in turn reduce greatly the need for transcoding gateways or services, reduce cost and latency and improve quality.

    That’s the only credible path to broad industry interoperability.

    For the record, please note that these are my personal thoughts, I am not communicating officially as a Microsoft employee.

  9. Once again the good old standards debate! Innovate or follow the standards? Of course you can do both which is why I take my hat off to those vendors that have a seat at UCIF.

    Is the UC industry in it’s innovative phase or have market standards emerged? There are some companies such as Cisco that have tried to control and influence market standards- without Cisco’s input in the IETF I doubt we would have got power over ethernet or LLDP-MED standardized. (Both originated from Cisco’s innovation and proprietary protocols.)

    If you’re worth your salt in this current market disruption you’ll get a jump on your competition and rapidly improve your products to sustain your success in the marketplace.

    Alternatively you can sit around a table arguing standards with other companies complaining about the way things were and the good old days. (Suggest you read “Who moved my cheese”)

    This is classic innovator’s dilemma- you either have to become a mainstream business dealing with commodity products, or let go of that and come up with something innovative.

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