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Putting the PBX in the Crosshairs

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates put the private branch exchange (PBX) in Microsoft's crosshairs during his unified communications keynote on Tuesday.

"This is a complete transformation of the business of the traditional PBX. The PBX in some ways is almost like the mainframe was many years ago where all of the functionality was there in that one piece. And the way that you had flexibility to add value, to customize, to bring in third parties to do new things, it just isn't there in that structure. And so by moving phone calls onto the Internet, using the powerful industry standard servers, we've got a very different way of being able to do things," Gates said.

But Gates acknowledged that corporations the world over won't go rip their PBXs out of their closets tomorrow. (Maybe the reference to the mainframe was a subtle acknowledgement that the old is never left completely behind? After all, how many times was the mainframe declared dead?)

"This is happening in a way where it's an evolution, you can actually take the software that we're talking about, and put that alongside the traditional PBX, and by having software that takes the events in and out of that PBX, a lot of these scenarios you can get without changing that out," Gates said. "Now, over time the lowest cost structure will be to not have the PBX, to simply rely on the software and the Internet connection as the way that communications works."

In the meantime, Microsoft has partnerships lined up with three global telephony providers, including Nortel Networks, Ericsson and Mitel Networks Corp., showing that it's not a battle of the old hardware guard versus the new software kids. Everybody is stumbling toward this new opportunity together.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 17, 2007


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