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September 18, 2007

Sphere Spins On

By Erik Linask, Group Managing Editor

When TMCNet first reported that NEC had purchased Sphere Communications back at the beginning of August, the news was somewhat secretive, being announced only on NEC’s (News - Alert) Japanese language Web site initially. Subsequently, as the news made its way into various other markets, Sphere chose to confirm the deal rather than keep the world wondering.
When I caught up with Sphere’s senior vice president Todd Landry (News - Alert) at INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO in Los Angeles last week, he confirmed that among the benefits of the arrangement is that it brings together the hardware-based solutions from NEC and the software expertise of Sphere.
For NEC, he said, this is particularly important because, as he said, “hardware is becoming software.” Indeed, with hardware solutions becoming less of a differentiator, software and the adaptability it offers, can bring NEC to a new level in the business communications space, where it has traditionally trailed the big three vendors (at least in North America).
For Sphere, Landry explained, the benefit is a global expansion of his available sales and marketing resources, which should immediately enhance Sphere’s brand recognition world wide.
As for details of the arrangement, Landry said the two firms are working through it as fast as they can so that they can make announcements and get on with their business. What he did say, though, is that his hope is for little change for Sphere, noting specifically the brand name, which is recognized in the communications software space.
As for what Sphere is focusing on, in addition to the obvious details of becoming a part of NEC, Landry suggested they will increase their focus on providing developers tools that are both effective and easy to use. Because the growing focus in the communications space is on software solutions and applications, being able to provide developers the tools to create those applications becomes increasingly important.
We’ll have to wait a while longer for the details of the NEC/Sphere deal, but, if Landry is right, Sphere will remain a brand on its own, its software solutions complementing NEC’s hardware offerings. The combination could create a new major presence in the communications space as Unified Communications comes into its own.
Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Associate Editor of INTERNET TELEPHONY, IMS Magazine, and Unified Communications. Prior to joining TMC (News - Alert), he was Managing Editor at Global Custodian, an international securities services publication. To see more of his articles, please visit Erik Linask’s columnist page.

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