March 20, 2019
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Microsoft’s Office Communications Server and unified communications software was rolled out to significant fanfare last fall. But what does it mean for the channel?

Tom Cross, CEO for, said he thinks Microsoft OCS is the PBX and hosted VoIP killer. The reason is that it’s totally integrated with Microsoft Outlook. “Outlook is the cocaine of the industry. I’m on it 12 hours a day,” he said, explaining that OCS’s integration in the e-mail client gives it an automatic in with business customers and an advantage over other IP PBXs and even hosted VoIP. He said it’s not a matter of if, but when customers will begin embracing the solution.

“The IM is cool and the telephony features are incredible. It’s more than a toolbar inside Outlook. It flows. It’s fluid. Communications is not dysfunctional anymore,” he said, noting that other communications tools are disjointed and not integrated with each other.

As for its advantages over hosted VoIP, with OCS, there is no need to buy a desk telephone set, just a computer and a mobile phone, he noted. Cross will be leading a session today at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo on the opportunity that Microsoft’s entry into the IP PBX market represents for the channel. “It’s going to finallyforce channel partners to figure out what business they are in,” he said, noting that it requires voice and data networking competencies to sell and implement.

“It’s the ‘Channel Borg.’ It brings the channels together,” he said, likening it to Star Trek’s Borg where different species are assimilated into a hive-like entity with one mind. Users can have one vendor — even the wiring is converged. The consolidation of bandwidth required by OCS is one opportunity for agents, he added. “Because Microsoft channel partners have not had to deal with telecom, there’s an opportunity for agents to be the connectivity partners to Microsoft Gold Partners,” he said. “It’s also a huge opportunity for an agent looking to become a Microsoft VAR.”