After Cisco/Broadsoft, Who's Next for M&A?

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I come here not to praise the Cisco/BroadSoft deal, but to bury it.  Seriously, when has Cisco hit a home run on a big acquisition? The larger discussion should be what will happen to GENBAND, RingCentral, Vonage, 8x8, and other cloud-y, UC players still out on the market and who will buy them.

Cisco's trail of acquisition tears over the decades includes the Flip video camera, Cerent, Scientific Atlantic, Linksys, and a couple of others.  The BroadSoft deal is being spun as a move to capture more SMB business and move Cisco's UC strategy move to the cloud.  Given Cisco's historic #Fails in the SMB market, I can't see BroadSoft bring a whole lot more to the table. Especially since Cisco Spark didn't.

About the only saving grace for Cisco is the UC market shifts very slowly, taking time to pick up momentum. But it will have to fend off Microsoft, an array of telecom service providers providing a single point of contact for physical connectivity through services, and a wildcard threat from Amazon as it figures out what else it can do with cloud services.

Microsoft and Amazon, along with Oracle, IBM, and Google among others, are providing business cloud services as a part of a larger portfolio of products. Everyone, with the exception of Oracle, has an AI/machine-learning component, adding further value and revenue opportunities for value-added services to the baseline. This leaves Cisco and Oracle behind the curve when you start talking about a technology growth path other than trying to buy other bits and pieces to fill in the gaps.

Larger portfolios of services give cloud providers options for bundling and discounting that others are harder pressed to match, especially in some types of M&A deals where an acquisition to fill in a particular slot has to be integrated into an existing lineup. For instance, ShoreTel's acquisition of cloud provider M5 had to work out how M5 was based on around a totally different non-ShoreTel platform.  The deal added services revenue to ShoreTel, but didn't help the company sell its core PBX and phone products. 

RingCentral, Vonage, and 8x8 should all be considered acquisition targets because they would enable a buyer to add customers to its existing base and provide cross-selling opportunities moving forward.  Both Vonage and 8x8 are attractive due to their established footprints in the SMB and business spaces. I've always thought Vonage would make an interesting acquisition for Amazon, given their working bundle of Amazon Chime Pro Edition service to Vonage business customers.  Bundle in some Amazon Connect call center, vanilla AWS and a couple other services to make it more attractive and Amazon could start pulling customers away from other UC players.

What makes Amazon really compelling its long-term investments in AI. Putting together Alexa with PBX and call center services would be a game change, especially since Alexa is steadily adding new tricks such as voice biometrics/voice authentication.  It's not hard to imagine a day when the business desktop phone is replaced by an Alexa-powered device, with calls placed by voice and a virtual attendant screening and processing inbound calls using a combination of voice biometrics and machine learning.  Cloud PBX offerings will have to add such functionality in the future to keep up and keep customers interested, since the current crop of PBX offerings is pretty much parsed based upon price and support as everyone has reached relative parity on feature sets.




Edited by Mandi Nowitz

Contributing Editor

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