Enterprise FMC Grows Up
LAS VEGAS -- Interop -- Fixed/Mobile Convergence attracted attention at the Interop show this week, but startups and big names alike have to contend with U.S. carriers' control over the flow of dual-mode devices.
Enterprise FMC contender DiVitas Networks Inc. has just inked a new partnership deal with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), linking Divitas's mobile Instant Messaging and Presence with Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005. The California startup also delivered on an announced hook-up with Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), which is shipping DiVitas software on its E Series corporate handsets. That bundle includes the ability to make VOIP calls over WiFi as well as allowing wireless IM and roaming between 802.11 and cellular networks.
DiVitas's CEO Vivek Khuller claims these deals represent the emergence of a new challenge to enterprise WiFi and VOIP leader Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).
"You can't take Cisco on lower down the network stack. They have a lock on layers 1 through 3," he tells Unstrung. "You have to take them on from the top down."
For Khuller, this means competing at the software and mobile device layer. There are "new boys" on the enterprise wireless scene, he says. Some of these "boys" are actually -- let's face it -- old and established companies, but Khuller considers them competitive threats for Cisco in the emerging convergence market.
On the handset side, he names Nokia, Samsung Corp. , and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) as convergence contenders. Meanwhile, Microsoft and open source coders respectively divide up the high- and low-end software market. Meanwhile, Khuller and his team will try to add more partners on the hardware and software side in an attempt to grab market share with the early adopters of this technology.
Naturally, Cisco isn't sitting still while corporate FMC grows from nothing to a niche. As CEO John Chambers said in his keynote at Interop this week, the company tries to keep on top of any interesting looking trends in the industry. Cisco is already working with Nokia on FMC applications, and Nokia has just started to ship Cisco's Call Connect software for the five dual-mode E Series phones (See Cisco, Nokia Team on FMC.)
There's another snag to this market for all players large and small: The carriers control the cellular side of the mobile equation and -- particularly in the U.S. -- they aren't about to hand over their precious corporate voice minutes to a bunch of pissant networking companies.
Jason Evans, managing director of Response Data Communications Ltd., which sells DiVitas gear, points out that the situation is somewhat easier in the U.K., the rest of Europe, and Asia. He says his office has a WiFi VOIP network, a GSM gateway, and a number of SIM cards with the corporate account. This means Response employees can get free calls at work and on their own home -- and public -- WiFi networks.
Things are trickier in the U.S., where the carriers have tighter control over the handset. For instance, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) (née Cingular) essentially castrated its version of Nokia's E62 enterprise handset. Not only did it remove the WiFi radio, it also dumped the phone's second processor, drastically cutting the phone's memory and computing power.
The U.S. carrier stranglehold over dual-mode devices is likely to be the major stumbling block for all players in this new market for now, above and beyond competition amongst themselves.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung