On Wednesday, Microsoft said it will acquire Chicago-based Parlano and will integrate the company's enterprise group chat technology, known as MindAlign, into Microsoft's unified communications products.
The deal is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2007. At that time, Microsoft will add group chat to Office Communications Server and Office Communicator. Microsoft will offer the group chat functionality as part of the standard client access license for Office Communications Server 2007 Software Assurance customers.
"Parlano has been successful in meeting the rigorous communications needs of companies in financial services and other vertical markets," Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of the Unified Communications Group at Microsoft, said in a statement. Microsoft is betting MindAlign will give its enterprise presence, instant messaging, conferencing, and VoIP software suite an upper hand.
Who Is Parlano, Anyway?
In 2000, Parlano launched group chat technology that enables people to carry on topic-specific, multiparty instant messaging discussions that persist over time. Companies in several industries use MindAlign to conduct such conversations.
Parlano built its business on the promise of helping companies improve service delivery and increase sales through group communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. Deutsche Bank and UBS are among the firm's clients who use MindAlign to keep track of discussions on specific topics.
Parlano and Microsoft were hardly strangers before the acquisition. Parlano created its technology architecture from the ground up to integrate with Microsoft's unified communications offerings. The software integrates with Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 and Office Communications Server 2007, making it a seamless acquisition from a technology standpoint.
Presence Wins the War
Parlano has indeed found success in demanding industries, such as financial services, and fits into Microsoft's strategy in the unified communications space, according to Zeus Kerravala, a senior analyst at Yankee Group. Specifically, Microsoft is targeting IBM's SameTime, he said, with an understanding that presence technology wins the war.
"You can't underestimate the importance that presence has to the long-term winners and losers in unified communications. The battle for presence is the real battleground," Kerravala said. "Combined with location, presence is vital because it offers context to business communications. Knowing where a person is and what they are doing opens the door to adding intelligence to business processes in various applications."
Presence technology has an opportunity to expand past people into I.T. systems, Kerravala went on to say. An alarm system could be presence-enabled, for example, as could environmental systems in a data center. "He who owns presence will control a lot of what users see and a lot of functionalities in the future," Kerravala noted.
Financial terms of the Parlano acquisition were not disclosed. After the acquisition is complete, members of the Parlano team are expected to join the Unified Communications Group at Microsoft.