Unified communications won't thrive unless systems from different vendors can work together in harmony. The Unified Communications Interoperability Forum is the focal point of these efforts. There is no reason that other entities -- such as BT -- can't help further the agenda.
Earlier this year, the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF) was formed. As with all such organizations, there is a lot at stake. The vendors who gain control will do quite well, since the final specifications are more likely to be in line with their solutions. In this case, a key area of concern is when and under what conditions Avaya and Cisco will join.
Carriers and service providers aren't members of UCIF either. It's encouraging that last week, BT offered a significant interoperability demonstration. The multi-device, multi-vendor, multi-location and multi-network type video conference stretched from New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta and London (multiple sites) and Hawkurst in the UK. The companies involved were UCIF holdout Cisco/Tandberg and members Polycom and Logitech/LifeSize.
This is the kind of demo that pushes interoperability. It helps the companies understand that they can work together under a variety of conditions. It also serves the more subtle purpose of pushing the entire interoperability agenda forward, since the vendors who don't want to see the group with the more complete solution predominate – and perhaps become a de facto and then actual standard – begin working harder on their plans.