Alcatel-Lucent Expands Cloud UC Offers
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise continues to roll out its cloud-based unified communications (UC) solutions, recently announcing the availability of OpenTouch Office Cloud, a Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) solution for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs), and the Voice Inbound Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS), a new cloud-based customer service option for mid-to-large enterprises.
In March 2013, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise first introduced its suite of cloud-based UC services under the umbrella, OpenTouch Suite for Cloud. The UCaaS suite encompasses three main offers that are delivered via service providers, system integrators and channels: OpenTouch Enterprise Cloud for mid-to-large size businesses (March 2013), OpenTouch Office Cloud for SMBs (February 2014) and OpenTouch Personal Cloud for applications (expected March 2014).
OpenTouch Enterprise Cloud
First in the suite, and available as of last March, is the OpenTouch Enterprise Cloud (OTEC) solution for mid-to-large size businesses, a UCaaS offer based on Alcatel-Lucent’s OpenTouch applications and the company’s OmniPCX Enterprise (OXE) IP communications system. To date, six partners are delivering the service based on a flexible RTU (right-to-use) elastic software license by which actual usage is tracked and charged per user, per month. Current partners include Icon Voice Networks in the U.S., UXC Connect in Australia, Telis in Monaco, Quantum ICT in Belgium, TDC in Swede and Telephonie in Luxemburg.
In November 2013 with Release 1.3, Alcatel-Lucent added a new customer service option for OTEC customers, the Voice Inbound Contact Center service. Mid-size and larger businesses can take advantage of this virtual customer service center for emergency hotlines, customer help desks or technical support. The solution scales up to 250 agents per customer.
OpenTouch Office Cloud for SMBs
OpenTouch Office Cloud (OTOC), the newest cloud UC offer, targets small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) with 4-50 users. The new cloud service is based on the company’s premises-based OmniPCX Office Rich Communication Edition (OXO RCE) IP-PBX system. Alcatel-Lucent channel partners manage the solution, and business customers simply subscribe for a monthly service fee to access telephony system features and applications, thus eliminating the up-front and ongoing expense of deploying and maintaining system equipment at their own site.
Partners can choose between two versions of the OXO RCE IP/SIP chassis, either Low Traffic with six CPUs (4-25 users, 12 IP Trunks) or High traffic with 5 CPUs (25-50 users, 40 IP Trunks); partners use one dedicated CPU per SMB company.
As of February 2014, two Alcatel-Lucent channel partners are on-board and offering the OTOC hosted service, namely Avita in Ireland and Synelyans in France. Additional partners in the Asia-Pacific and central northern European markets are to be announced in the next quarter.
OpenTouch Personal Cloud
OpenTouch Personal Cloud services will be announced in March 2014. More details will follow, but in general, the service will deliver applications-as-a-service for any size enterprise. Alcatel-Lucent explains that the cloud-based applications will be designed as overlay solutions and will solve “specific pain points” for groups of users such as a call recording application that could be used in a call center environment.
Note that Alcatel-Lucent is currently in talks to sell its enterprise unit to China Huaxin. The sale is expected to complete by the end of the second quarter of 2014 and marks the second divestment by the company as part of its “Shift Plan” to reposition Alcatel-Lucent as a specialist provider of IP networking and wireless.
Panasonic Launches KX-NS1000 IP Communications Platform in U.S.
Panasonic System Communications Company North America is expanding its business phone system portfolio with a new IP- and SIP-based communications platform called KX-NS1000 designed for small to mid-size businesses. The new system, which scales from 10 to 1,000 networked users across up to 16 locations, is now in limited availability in the U.S. to 100 certified Panasonic resellers.
As an all-in-one communications platform, the KX-NS1000 combines telephony, collaborative applications and built-in, centralized management tools in a single 19-inch rack-mount unit. The solution targets growing businesses looking to unify dispersed offices and remote employees into a cohesive system that is flexible to deploy, easily expanded and which ensures business continuity across locations.
Investment Protection: Panasonic is known for protecting its existing customer base by ensuring that current equipment investments remain compatible and reusable when migrating to a newer Panasonic system. The KX-NS1000 supports Panasonic’s KX-NT500 IP phone series and UT series SIP phones, as well as earlier Panasonic NT3xx IP phones. And, the system is capable of interconnecting with earlier Panasonic KX-NCP, KX-TDE or KX-TDA phone systems as gateways to support analog and digital devices, including phones and trunks. (Note that currently the KX-NS1000 operates only as a pure IP solution in U.S. installations; support for analog/digital gateways will be added later.)
Scale: The KX-NS1000 system can flexibly meet the needs of a small business with just 10 users to a growing mid-size business with as many as 1,000 users spread across up to 16 different locations. Standalone maximums include 256 trunks, 640 IP extensions and 256 SIP phones, or up to 600 trunks and 1,000 IP/SIP extensions using the system’s One-Look Networking capability (see below). The system also supports two analog extensions (standalone) or up to 32 analog extensions (network), without a gateway unit attached (Panasonic KX-NCP, KX-TDE, KX-TDA).
Multi-site Transparency: The KX-NS1000 system includes license-activated One-Look Networking software that connects multiple KX-NS1000 units, up to 16, into a single system with centralized administration and reporting. A Web Maintenance Console for the administrator allows the management of all phones and system units from one central point, including devices, features and system updates and changes. Users also have a Web-based tool to make changes to their own personal settings.
Network Resiliency: The system’s One-Look Networking capability sets up a master-slave failover configuration that eliminates the need for a spare backup or redundant system on-site. If a system or location experiences an outage, the associated IP phones can automatically re-register to an alternate KX-NS1000 on the network so that communications to continue without interruption.
Productivity: Customers will be able to take advantage of built-in unified messaging, mobile device integration and other popular capabilities, but also Panasonic’s Communications Assistant (CA) productivity application which is pre-installed on the system’s main processor. CA enables visual control of calls and messages from a user’s desktop PC with functionality such as point and click call control, screen-based presence, instant messaging, visual voicemail, integration with Microsoft Outlook, group conferencing and IP camera integration. CA can also tie in CRM applications, including Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Sugar CRM and others, and third party applications for hospitality, call center, security and home/business automation.
The IP-only version of Panasonic’s KX-NS1000 was launched in limited availability in the U.S. on January 15, 2014 to 100 certified Panasonic resellers. General availability, including support for analog/digital gateways, is targeted for later this year.
Thinking Phone Networks Continues International Expansion
Thinking Phone Networks, a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) provider based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is expanding its global footprint. The company began offering hosted/cloud voice and UC services to mid-size and larger enterprises in North America in 2006, then launched its service in the EMEA region in 2013, opening a regional headquarters in Amsterdam in May 2013 and a data center in Frankfurt, Germany in January 2014 to serve 17 Western European countries. Plans are to open additional data centers in Europe and other regions to accommodate a growing number of larger, multi-site customers with offices overseas.
Hosted/cloud services continue to gain in popularity as an alternative to purchasing an on-premises telephony system (more on this trend here), and Thinking Phone Networks, in operation for just eight years, has already earned some important industry recognition as a top UCaaS provider. Market research firm Gartner has positioned Thinking Phone Networks as a market leader in its Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service report for demonstrating significant market presence as a VoIP solution with integrated conferencing (audio, video, and Web), instant messaging, presence, messaging and mobility. Frost & Sullivan named Thinking Phone Networks as the 2013 Company of the Year in the North American hosted IP telephony and UCC services market, citing the company’s “sustainable growth strategy, highly effective execution, strong focus on product innovation and delivery of superior customer value.”
Customers can subscribe to UC services directly through Thinking Phone Networks’ sales team or indirectly through one of the company’s wholesale partners that can choose to brand and tailor the offer as their own under a white-label/OEM program. To date, Thinking Phone Networks has 700 enterprise customers with a combined total of 5,000 sites and over 100,000 endpoints.
The Hosted/Cloud UC Service
Thinking Phone Networks uses a distributed data center architecture that provides built-in disaster recovery through multiple, global data center facilities, each of which has a redundant network and service infrastructure. There is no single point of failure since service delivery is not dependent on a particular data center site or on any single underlying service element. Additionally, the service does not rely on the public Internet with its potential security and outage issues; instead, Thinking Phone Networks utilizes private MPLS network connections or can utilize a customer’s existing network.
Typically, target customers are mid-size and larger businesses with 500-3,000 employees (the sweet spot in terms of optimal cost-effectiveness), but the solution scales to meet the requirements of even larger organizations with 5,000-10,000 users or more.
Key Applications: Mobility and Analytics
Because Thinking Phone Networks has developed its own platform, the company is able to steadily add new and forward-looking capabilities that differentiate its UCaaS portfolio from other hosted/cloud UC services in the market.
Thinking Phone Networks’ UC service has a comprehensive voice feature set, but also delivers more advanced UC capabilities such as mobility, presence and instant messaging, Web and video conferencing and contact center – all with an eye toward supporting these applications on mobile devices since accessing business communications with a smartphone or tablet has become a necessity in today’s fast-paced, competitive business environment.
ThinkingMobile, the company’s in-house Fixed Mobile Communications (FMC) solution, is included with the company’s “Core” feature bundle and all higher-level bundles (more on feature bundles below). The ThinkingMobile application, downloaded to an Android and iOS smartphone or tablet, provides end-users with ‘single number reach’ and convenient access to all voice features and UC applications from their mobile device.
The company has also developed an analytics application called ThinkingAnalytics that goes above and beyond competing UCaaS offers to equip businesses with intelligence about employee performance, customer engagement and business processes. Data is collected and aggregated across all ThinkingSuite applications (voice, mobility, video, presence, contact center and conferencing), as well as third-party CRM applications, to provide visibility and insights into how teams and business units are performing and how applications are being utilized. By acting on this intelligence, a business can streamline operations, enhance business processes and improve services.
A number of third-party applications, such as from Microsoft and salesforce.com, can also be integrated, and customers can tie in their own business applications using Thinking Phone Networks’ library of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
Thinking Phone Networks has designed feature ‘bundles’ for basic, mid-range or more advanced business needs and user requirements.
The most basic ‘UC Utility’ package supports popular telephony features and voicemail. A ‘UC Basic’ package adds access to the ThinkingAnalytics business intelligence application, with dashboard statistics viewable via the customer portal. ‘UC Core’ comes with significantly more productivity features, including a softphone, a mobile client and click-to-call plug-ins for Microsoft Outlook and major Web browsers. The ‘UC Power’ user package adds advanced application support for meet-me audio conferencing, 6-party video conferencing, fax-to-email and API Connectors for Lync and CRM applications.
Three additional feature bundles for Contact Center Agents and Supervisors and Attendants include relevant features like call recording, monitoring and administration.
On the Roadmap
Thinking Phone Networks plans to continue its international expansion in 2014, opening additional data centers that will help the company serve its growing number of enterprise customers with offices overseas. New mobile capabilities are also on the roadmap, as well as an embeddable WebRTC-based UC client that will “streamline and contextualize” customer interactions, helping to improve the overall customer experience. Stay tuned for more.
Unify Rebrands and Enhances HiPath 4000 as OpenScape 4000
Unify, formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications, has rebranded and enhanced its HiPath 4000 hybrid (TDM and IP) system as OpenScape 4000. The system, on the market since 2002, is designed for medium- to large-sized enterprises with 300 to 100,000 employees. Up to 15,000 users can be configured on a single system or up to 100,000 users in a network of systems. Unify highlights the success of the platform, citing more than 25,000 OpenScape 4000 installations (over 25 million ports) in 80 countries.
The latest Version 7 brings the platform more in line with today’s trends, adding support for VMware virtualization environments and some additional unified communications (UC) capabilities that will help enterprises improve workplace productivity with more effective collaboration. V7 is also the stepping stone toward future technologies since it is the baseline release necessary to support the full features of Unify’s Project Ansible collaboration platform which is scheduled for general availability in July 2014.
OpenScape 4000 V7 Highlights:
- Virtualization Support: A software version of OpenScape 4000 runs on industry standard server with Linux and can be virtualized to run in a VMware environment (VMware vSphere ESXi 5), making the system a good deployment option for IT and data center environments and organizations with distributed locations. Many businesses are utilizing virtualization technology as a way to consolidate multiple applications on a single platform for efficient use of hardware and computing resources since this translates into in capital, operational and energy savings. In addition to the software version and VMware support, customers can still opt for a traditional hardware deployment, the Compact PCI (cPCI) OpenScape 4000 communication server with a duplex, redundant architecture and support for analog, digital and IP devices.
- Enhanced UC and Mobility: OpenScape 4000 V7 now supports the company’s One Number Service (ONS) on all endpoint devices, allowing incoming calls to be received on multiple devices at the same time, including Unify’s OpenStage TDM and IP phones, OpenScape UC soft clients, mobile clients and cordless handsets. Used in combination with Unify’s OpenScape UC Application, users can manage a ‘preferred devices’ list and to embed rules as to which devices will be notified depending on the user’s presence status.
- ‘Project Ansible’ Integration: OpenScape 4000 V7 is the baseline release necessary to support the full features of Unify’s forthcoming Project Ansible collaboration platform to become generally available in July 2014. Ansible, being developed in partnership with frog design (www.frogdesign.com), will be a Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) solution that combines voice, social, collaboration, applications and infrastructure to evoke some new ways of engaging and communicating. The first release of Ansible will be delivered as a Software as a Service (SaaS) application with ‘basic’ connectors to any PBX system, including earlier versions of the OpenScape 4000 platform (HiPath 4000). However, in order to take advantage of Ansible’s full UC&C capabilities, customers will need to run V7 as a starting point which will support ‘enhanced’ connectors between the system and Ansible.
OpenScape 4000 V7 is available now from Unify and its global partners. The company promises an easy migration, including license transfers, for customers with existing HiPath 4000 V6 hardware (cPCI) and OpenScape Software Assurance (regular billing for continuous software upgrades), or customers can cost-effectively upgrade to OpenScape 4000 Flex Licenses.
Zultys MX R9 Marks Entry into Cloud UC Market
Unified Communications (UC) solution provider Zultys announces the general availability of a new software version for its MX SIP-based systems. Release 9.0 introduces a number of enhancements and improvements for users and administrators, but primarily, the new release marks the company’s entry into the hosted/cloud UC market with the official release of the company’s MXvirtual VMware-ready virtual appliance.
MXvirtual is a virtualized software-only version of the company’s MX IP phone system that allows the solution to co-reside with other applications on a single server running VMware vSphere technology. Larger corporations can run MXvirtual on their existing VMware infrastructure. Or, authorized Zultys channel partners can act as managed service providers, offering the solution as a subscription-based service to end customers. In this case, the solution can be hosted in a partner’s own facility or in the Zultys data center.
The new MXvirtual software has the same feature set as the earlier all-in-one Zultys MX30 and MX250 IP PBX SIP- and Linux-based appliances for on-site deployments. Capabilities like voicemail and call center (basic ACD) are standard features, and other collaborative functions are built-in and easily license-activated as needed, including unified messaging, meet-me conferencing and the company’s MXIE UC client application for desktops and mobile devices. Additional applications can be added optionally.
With R9.0, Zultys now offers an identical user and administrator experience whether the solution is deployed at a customer premises, as a managed/hosted service or in a hybrid environment with both types of deployments. A company-wide MXnetwork can include both physical MX systems and MXvirtual deployments, with up to 128 systems or instances and 10,000 users connected as a single system.
With an MXvirtual deployment, Zultys also introduces flexible pricing. End-user organizations that choose to run MXvirtual within their own VMware infrastructure have the option of purchasing the MXvirtual software upfront or paying a monthly subscription fee. Organizations that choose the managed/hosted service option will pay a monthly fee via one of the Zultys channel partners.
Zultys expects that MXvirtual managed deployments will appeal to businesses with 20-200 users that prefer not to purchase and maintain telephony equipment on-site. Larger user groups that choose to run MXvirtual on their existing VMware infrastructure will typically have 300 or more users; as noted, MXvirtual can scale as high as 10,000 users.
For the managed/hosted service, Zultys has developed three subscription feature bundles for varying requirements.
- The Standard User bundle provides the user with all standard telephony functionality, including call control, voice mail, basic ACD and mobility integration with iPhone and Android devices.
- The Premium User bundle adds a license to use the Zultys MXIE UC client, supported on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, to enable more collaborative features such as unified messaging (voicemail/fax-to-email), instant messaging, presence, point-to-point video calling, Microsoft Outlook integration and meet-me conferencing.
- A third user package is the same as the Premium User, but comes with a Contact Center Agent license for more sophisticated requirements like call queues, real-time supervisor monitoring, queue manipulation, group and agent statistics, queue overflow and promotional message playing.
Additional R9.0 Enhancements
Though the primary focus of R9.0 is virtualization, there are some other enhancements and improvements. Administrators can now centrally manage MXIE UC client user settings and call handling rules for all users on the MX system. MX network failover capabilities are expanded to allow instant messaging, presence, monitoring and management to continue during a failover. Integration between Zultys’ integrated outbound dialer application and third party systems is simplified with automatic uploading of contact information. Zultys MX also supports an alternate integration with Microsoft Exchange via Exchange Web Services.
Zultys MX 9.0 is generally available now from authorized Zultys channel partners. Current MX customers with a software subscription can upgrade to the new software at no extra cost. MXvirtual is also now available to the Zultys reseller channel.
In recent news:
8x8 has released a new version of its Virtual Contact Center (VCC) hosted service. The new R8.0 adds wallboard status information optimized for iPad, iPhone or Android devices, Virtual Queuing to request a callback, Reporting Wizards, agent tools for recording and playing audio messages, multi-browser support and more. R8.0 is available free to existing VCC customers. 8x8 VCC customers can also now subscribe to the Zendesk cloud-based customer service system for creating, tracking and closing trouble tickets. In other news, 8x8 has been awarded its 92nd patent; this one relates to its virtual contact center technologies and networked contact centers that include multiple platforms to host multiple tenants.
Aastra (a Mitel Company) has acquired Telepo Ltd, a provider of cloud-based, carrier-grade, multi-tenant enterprise communication solutions in the Nordics. Telepo's solution for service providers and their enterprise customers includes standard voice, PBX and call center features, integrated security and Web-based portals for multiple tiers of administrators. Currently, Telepo provides its solution through 16 service providers. Telepo's multi-tenant solution will enhance the Mitel-Aastra offerings in the European market. Mitel Networks Corporation completed its merger with Aastra Technologies Limited on January 31, 2014.
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise expands its cloud Unified Communications offers, introducing OpenTouch Office Cloud UCaaS for small- and mid-size businesses in Ireland and France (additional regions to follow) and the Voice Inbound Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS), a cloud-based customer service option for mid-to-large enterprises. See the related write-up “Alcatel-Lucent Expands Cloud UC Offers” for more detail. Alcatel-Lucent is currently in talks to sell its enterprise unit to China Huaxin. The sale, expected to complete by the end of the second quarter of 2014, marks the second divestment by the company as part of its “Shift Plan” to reposition Alcatel-Lucent as a specialist provider of IP networking and wireless.
Allworx has released a new software version for its phone systems designed for small and mid-sized businesses. The new System Software Release 7.6 simplifies dial plan programming for multi-site configurations, improves Web administration and broadens SIP service provider options, among other new features. Allworx offers three systems for smaller businesses, namely the Allworx 6x12 for branch sites (to 12 users), Allworx 6x (to 60 users) and Allworx 48x (to 250 users). Allworx is a Windstream company.
AltiGen has officially launched the new MaxCS Private Cloud hosted PBX service, a managed business communications service based on the company’s MaxCommunications Server (MaxCS) software IP-PBX and contact center solution for on-premises deployments. The subscription-based service enables the same phone system features as MaxCS 7.0, but without the upfront equipment expense. MaxCS Private Cloud is sold and supported by AltiGen's certified reseller partners, many of which have cloud-based deployments already in production. AltiGen is currently offering hardware trade-in credits for existing customers migrating to the new MaxCS Private Cloud service.
Avaya is introducing a new contact center application for its IP Office communications platform for small and mid-size businesses. The IP Office Contact Center application supports inbound and outbound multichannel (voice, email, chat) customer interactions, call recording, flexible reporting and 5 -100 agents. The solution is supplied as software to be installed on a dedicated server or as a virtualized instance under VMware. IP Office Contact Center will be available in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and India as of February 28, 2014.
BroadSoft has acquired finocom AG, a German provider of cloud unified communications services. The acquisition, including cloud infrastructure, cloud service expertise and an experienced team of employees, is expected to help BroadSoft more quickly scale its European operations by accelerating the availability of its BroadCloud unified communications (UC) services in the German market, and subsequently into Eastern Europe (market research firm MZA estimates that in Germany hosted UC users will grow to 2.3 million users in 2017, up 140% over 2012). BroadSoft estimates that the finocom acquisition will add about $2.5 million to its revenue in 2014.
Cisco announced the acquisition of Boston-based Collaborate.com, a cloud-based mobile collaboration platform for businesses. Mobile users with iPhone, iPod Touch, Android and Web-based devices can access popular cloud services such as Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, Apple iCloud and email, then easily share documents, manage tasks and communicate in virtual collaboration rooms with other team members. The new technology complements Cisco’s existing WebEx, videoconferencing and Unified Communications platforms and will help accelerate additional innovations in the collaboration space.
CoreDial has announced plans to integrate its SwitchConnex cloud platform with BroadSoft’s BroadWorks softswitch, allowing CoreDial reseller partners to offer alternative call control systems, UC features and functions. CoreDial resellers will be able to offer the BroadSoft BroadWorks hosted/cloud service and associated applications or CoreDial’s own in-house hosted/cloud UC services, thus addressing wider variety of customer needs. The BroadSoft integration is targeted for production in third quarter 2014. Additional softswitch integrations are planned.
Digium has introduced an IP Phone Rental Program for its Switchvox Cloud hosted phone service available across the U.S. in 48 states (excludes Alaska and Hawaii). The rental program eliminates the upfront cost of purchasing phones, and instead, allows Switchvox Cloud customers to rent Digium phones for a monthly fee. Specifically, customers can choose from three Digium telephone models, as follows: the entry-level D40 ($8/user/month), the mid-range D50 ($12/user/month) and the D70 for executives and administrators ($18/user/month). Digium is also currently offering a 30-day Risk Free Trial of Switchvox Cloud (five user seats, five Digium IP phones and a toll-free number).
Fonality has introduced a new Fonality Partner Exchange online community to support partners with training, sales tools and content as part of an effort to increase channel-generated revenue to more than 50% of its business in 2014. The online portal uses knowledge management technology from Bloomfire. In other news, Fonality was issued a US patent for universal queuing of inbound communications that allows distribution of any type of communication (voice, chat, email, voicemail and social media interactions) to the same agent.
Grandstream Networks has introduced the first models in new series of Gigabit HD IP Phones for SMBs and enterprises. The new GXP2140/2160 phones ($139/$159) have a 4.3-inch color display, dual Gigabit ports, integrated Power over Ethernet and Bluetooth and more. The company also expands its video surveillance portfolio with four new Outdoor Infrared Weatherproof IP Cameras for business and consumer markets. And, Grandstream high density analog VoIP gateways and ATAs have been validated by ShoreTel, allowing SMB, home office and remote workers to connect existing analog devices and traditional PBX systems to a VoIP phone system or provider.
Microsoft is acquiring Virginia-based Parature, a cloud-based customer service software provider that targets midsize and enterprise organizations. Parature’s solutions complement Microsoft's Dynamics CRM application with multi-channel customer care capabilities such as self-service customer care portals on the Web and Facebook, mobile customer care and chat capabilities. The combined technologies are expected to more effectively compete against Salesforce.com and Oracle RightNow. The integration between Parature's cloud-based applications and Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM is already developed since the two companies have had an existing partnership.
Microsoft is holding its second annual Lync Conference this week in Las Vegas, demonstrating the latest release of its unified communications (UC) software, Lync 2014, and introducing a number of new capabilities set to roll out in 2014. Among these are a new speech interface for Windows Phone, a Lync client for Android tablets (June 2014), Lync-to-Skype video calling (voice and instant messaging were previously supported) and a new video conferencing interoperability server that promises to protect earlier equipment investments (such as Cisco/Tandberg video conferencing systems). The Microsoft Lync Online hosted service will add support for PSTN calling and large meetings. Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate VP Lync and Skype Engineering at Microsoft, highlighted a new concept dubbed universal communications that he envisions as the next stage in unified communications. Lync Conference 2014 is the Microsoft’s second annual conference for the Lync community of partners, customers and Microsoft employees.
Mitel updates its MiContact Center Enterprise/Business Editions with new features and customer contact options. R7.0 adds a multi-channel agent desktop application that supports voice, email, Web chat, fax and social media contacts from any customer device, estimated wait times for all queues and across all media types, skills-based routing and work timer support for multi-channel interactions, supervisor client support on tablet devices and more. A new MiContact Center Outbound solution supports inbound/outbound call blending and multi-channel interactions, campaign management tools, integrated CRM and agent call and workflow scripting. Mitel acquired prairieFyre software Inc. and its contact center technology in 2013.
NEC Corporation of America is partnering with Canadian technology company Moimstone Corporation to develop a new Android-based desk phone for the enterprise market. The companies will also create and operate an app store where end users will be able to buy and download software updates, features and applications. The new phone is due out in the fall of 2014 and will work with all of NEC’s business phone systems.
NICE Systems has opened a new cloud data center in the UK to host the company’s cloud-based Workforce Optimization and analytics offerings. The new facility will serve customers in the EMEA region where Nice, and other providers, recognize the rising demand for cloud-based solutions. The data center complies with UK and EU privacy regulations and PCI and ISO security standards.
Panasonic System Communications Company North America has expanded its business phone system portfolio with a new IP- and SIP-based communications platform called KX-NS1000 designed for small to mid-size businesses. The new system, which scales from 10 to 1,000 networked users across up to 16 locations, is now in limited availability in the U.S. to 100 certified Panasonic resellers. See the related write-up “Panasonic Launches KX-NS1000 IP Communications Platform in U.S.” for more detail.
RingCentral has added a new service called RingCentral Meetings that enables multi-point HD video conferencing, meeting scheduling and management, integrated chat and screen sharing via iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, PCs and Mac computers (up to 25 participants per conference). RingCentral Meetings is included no cost with the Enterprise Edition user package of the RingCentral Office hosted PBX service. The Meetings application is developed by Zoom Video Communications, Inc.
ShoreTel continues to add support for virtualization technology with its latest update of the premises-based ShoreTel business phone system. A new version of the company’s call processing software, ShoreTel 14.2, enables call control (Virtual Phone Switch), SIP trunking (Virtual SIP Trunk Switch), collaboration (Virtual Service Appliance) and session border control (Virtual SIParator) applications to be virtualized and installed on an industry standard server running VMware vSphere technology; this efficient use of hardware and computing resources through virtualization translates into capital, operational and energy savings. The new virtual appliances can be deployed with ShoreTel’s traditional hardware-based appliances within the same centralized network. ShoreTel already offered virtualization support for some of its other solutions, including system administration, unified messaging and Enterprise Contact Center applications.
ShoreTel has expanded its Champion Partner Program to make it easier for channel partners to participate in the growing hosted/cloud unified communications market. Current and future partners will be able to take advantage of new tools and training to sell the ShoreTel Sky cloud UC service. Resellers can choose from three new cloud partner “tiers” (Enabled, Approved and Referral) and associated compensation plans designed for varying levels of involvement in sales process. In other news, ShoreTel has a new vertical sales program (a dedicated team) focused on the finance business segment, including the banking and credit union industries.
snom has expanded its 7xx SIP phone series with a new entry-level model, the snom 715. The new desktop phone has some advanced features such as a dual port Gigabit Ethernet switch, HD audio and a USB connector (for a Bluetooth headset or other connections), but sells at a competitive price ($139 MSRP). snom’s 7xx series portfolio now includes the 710, 715, 720 and 760 models that offer a range of capabilities and price points to fit varying requirements and budgets. In other news, snom is partnering with Secusmart GmbH to incorporate Secusmart’s security technology that prohibits voice traffic from being hacked and intercepted; the snom 760 will be the first snom phone to support an encrypted security card, inserted into a slot on the phone.
Thinking Phone Networks has opened a new data center facility in Frankfurt Germany and plans to open additional data centers in Europe and other regions to accommodate a growing number of larger, multi-site customers with offices overseas (see related write-up “Thinking Phone Networks Continues International Expansion” for more detail).
Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Telecommunication Systems has certified additional Jabra hands-free audio devices for Toshiba’s SoftIPT softphone and Toshiba’s IP5000 and DP5000 desk telephones. Newly supported Jabra devices include two wireless headsets (the entry-level Jabra 920/930 and the Jabra 9450 for desk phones and softphones), as well as the Jabra 550/750 corded headsets and the Jabra LINK 850 Audio Processor device for noise cancellation (connects to PCs via USB, desktop phones or both). A number of previously certified Jabra headsets are still available; the companies have partnered since 2007.
Unify, the company formerly known as Siemens Enterprise Communications, has rebranded (and updated) its earlier HiPath 4000 communications system as OpenScape 4000 (see related write-up for more detail). The company has also enhanced its OpenScape Contact Center Suite, adding new Mobile Agent and Mobile Supervisor applications for iPhones, iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, and integrating an analytics package from partner, Softcom. InsideEdge by Softcom enables the monitoring of agent and campaign statistics in real-time.
Vertical Communications and Spectralink are partnering to provide wireless solutions for the retail industry. Under the agreement, Vertical will directly resell Spectralink Wi-Fi and DECT products and will also develop new mobile applications for retailers. Additional details are forthcoming.
Vocalocity, now Vonage Business Solutions, has developed new plug-ins for mobile and desktop client applications. A call history plug-in (free) displays screen pops for incoming calls with details of previous customer interactions. A Salesforce.com plug-in designed for sales and customer service ($2.99 per month) is used to create, track and log new contacts, leads and accounts and automatically display relevant caller information in real-time. Vocalocity was acquired by Vonage in November 2013.
Yealink Network Technology Ltd, a China-based voice and video over IP phone designer and manufacturer, has added a new model to its latest SIP-T4 Series of IP phones. The new T48G IP Phone designed for executives and business professionals features a large, 7-inch color touchscreen, built-in Bluetooth headset support (via USB), dual port Gigabit connectivity and HD voice among other features. Other models in the series include the T46G color Gigabit phone, the T42G Gigabit phone and the more basic T41P.
Zultys announces the general availability of a new software version for its MX SIP-based systems. Release 9.0 introduces a number of enhancements and improvements for users and administrators, but primarily, the new release marks the company’s entry into the hosted/cloud UC market with the official release of the company’s MXvirtual VMware-ready virtual appliance. See the related write-up “Zultys MX R9 Marks Entry into Cloud UC Market” for more detail.
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