Avaya announced the general availability of Aura 8.0 (as of July 9, 2018). The new release adds support for Avaya’s J Series SIP phones (J129 for common areas, J139 for business workers, J169 for knowledge workers and J179 for advanced UC) and the Avaya Spaces team collaboration application (was Zang Spaces) with Essential (free), Business and Power editions. New data center options (Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS providers) include Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure (already supported Amazon Web Services and IBM Cloud). Avaya Aura 8.0 also addresses software and hardware investment protection and migration for CS1000 (legacy Nortel) customers toward Aura or IP Office; this includes Avaya’s Loyalty Together Promotion, Device Adapter Snap-ins and new options such as subscription-based licensing.
Broadvoice has acquired cloud communications provider YipTel and its solutions for hosted VoIP, audio and video conferencing, SMS/MMS automation, contact center and SD-WAN. YipTel is said to have a customer base of mid-market and enterprise organizations which is expected to accelerate Broadvoice’s entry into the enterprise communications space. YipTel also has a telehealth solution which brings a new vertical market to the Broadvoice portfolio. Broadvoice already offers the b-hive UCaaS platform for U.S.-based small and mid-size businesses (SMBs); b-hive is based on a platform developed by XBP which Broadvoice acquired in April 2017. Broadvoice plans to run both companies, channel programs and brands separately through the end of 2018, though YipTel partners will also be able to sell the Broadvoice portfolio to their customers. YipTel deploys Metaswitch Business Services solutions.
Cisco made a series of announcements related to its collaboration portfolio, including new room systems (Webex Room Kit Pro - replaces SX80, Webex Room 70 G2 - new version of Room 70, Webex Room 55 Dual - modeled after MX700) and new 500 Series wireless headsets (561 single earpiece, 562 dual earpiece). A new @Meet feature schedules a meeting and automatically includes dial-in information in the meeting invitation. Three new Webex Edge services (Webex Edge Audio, Webex Edge Connect and Webex Edge Video Mesh) reduce costs for public switched telephone network (PSTN) and bandwidth, while improving the quality of audio, video and content during meetings. In other news, Cisco Meraki has launched the Meraki Go indoor/outdoor WiFi enterprise-grade solution built for SMBs (< 50 employees). Notable features include continual updates via the cloud, management via mobile app and a dedicated support team. Cisco also joins a number of business communications vendors recently announcing collaboration integrations with Google Cloud's new Contact Center AI solution. Cisco will add Google AI to its Cisco Customer Journey Platform (formerly BroadSoft's CC-One solution) and will be exploring using Google AI for capabilities such as transcription, translation, meeting summaries and task management. In other news, Cisco is acquiring Duo Security, a security and authentication cloud services company that will add a software-as-a-service component to Cisco's security portfolio.
CoreDial’s CoreNexa Contact Center as-a-service (CCaaS) offering is now officially available for sale by its channel partners. The new contact center services (formerly Voice4Net which CoreDial acquired earlier this year) integrate with CoreDial’s unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) or deploys as an Over-the-Top (OTT) service for other vendor’s voice and UC platforms. CoreNexa Contact Center, available in voice-only or omni-channel packages, targets small- and mid-size businesses typically with 25-500 users, but can scale to accommodate larger organizations.
CounterPath has launched Bria Teams, a new cloud-based service for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) and current users of CounterPath X-Lite and Bria solutions. The internally developed team application enables secure team messaging, presence, HD voice and video calling and desktop screen sharing on up to three devices per user (Windows and Mac desktops, iOS and Android mobile devices). Language support includes English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Russian and Japanese (the portal, documentation and support site are available in English only). Bria Teams interoperates with most vendor's call servers (PBX) and VoIP services. There is a free 30-day trial, then subscriptions start at $5.95 USD per user (billed monthly) or $3.95 per user per month (billed annually).
Evolve IP acquired the assets of cloud communications provider Advanced Integrated Technologies, Inc. (AiTech) that offers voice, video, mobility and collaboration solutions based on Broadsoft’s (now Cisco’s) unified communications as a service (UCaaS) platform. The acquisition adds AiTech’s base of clients in the mid-west United States to which Evolve IP can now offer its range of cloud-based IT services (cloud computing, disaster recovery, virtual desktops, IaaS), but also UC and contact center (also based on Cisco Broadsoft technology) under theh Evolve IP OneCloud unified platform.
Genesys joins a number of business communications vendors recently announcing collaboration integrations with Google Cloud's new Contact Center AI solution. Genesys will integrate its own AI solution for customer service (Kate) with the natural language understanding capabilities of Google Cloud Contact Center AI to detect consumer intent, allowing businesses to predict and match the right resource (human, bot or a combination) to efficiently handle the customer inquiry or request. Kate has been developed around the company’s concept of “blended AI” which combines live agent interactions with AI, bots and machine learning. The Genesys-Google integration is already in an early adoption phase with selected clients. General availability is planned for early 2019.
Google made a number of announcements at its annual Google Cloud Next 2018 cloud conference, including updates to its G Suite strategy, new artificial intelligence (AI) tools for developers and a new unified cloud approach. In the area of enterprise communications, the company announced new Google Cloud Contact Center AI as-a-service capabilities designed to work with existing partner contact center technology. Contact Center AI is in limited trials today with nine contact center platform partners: Appian, Cisco, Five9, Genesys, Mitel, RingCentral, Twilio, Upwire and Vonage. Google is also planning to roll out a business (enterprise) version of its Google Voice service for G Suite users (Google Voice was launched for consumers in 2009). Google Voice for enterprise users, currently in beta and expected to be generally available in early 2019, will integrate with other G Suite applications such as Hangout Meet and Google Calendar. In other news, Google has acquired Onward, a customer service automation tool developer that started out as the Agent Q virtual assistant for shoppers, but now offers a Visual Bot Builder for automating customer service.
Microsoft has introduced a free, standalone version of the Microsoft Teams group chat platform that does not require a subscription to Microsoft’s Office 365 (previously, Teams has been only available to Office 365 commercial customers with a Business Essentials or Business Premium plan, or an Enterprise E1, E3 or E5 plan). The free version (listed as in preview) supports 300 users maximum and includes unlimited messages and search, guest access, built-in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, 140+ integrated apps and services, 1:1 and group online audio and video calls, 10 GB of shared file storage plus 2 GB per user, and more. (The paid versions of Teams have more features in the areas of user scale, file storage, meeting features, Microsoft and Office 365 services, analytics, security and administration.) Note from Microsoft: “Starting October 1, 2018, new Office 365 customers with fewer than 500 seats will be onboarded to Microsoft Teams and will not have access to Skype for Business Online. Tenants that are already using Skype for Business Online will be able to continue doing so (including provisioning new users) until they complete their transition to Microsoft Teams.” New Microsoft Team capabilities continue to roll out. Among the latest are a video call background blur feature, intelligent meeting recording, roles-based workflows, image annotation, expanded device support, improved developer tools and more. In other news, Microsoft is acquiring AI startup Lobe that makes a simple visual interface for developing and applying deep learning and AI quickly and without the need for writing code.
Mitel has expanded its portfolio of contact center offerings with the new MiCloud Engage Contact Center, a public cloud-delivered (AWS) white-label solution based on technology from Serenova. MiCloud Engage CC complements an existing PBX (Mitel or non-Mitel) and scales to accommodate enterprises with up to 5,000 agents. Three plans are available: Essentials ($55/agent/month), Premier ($105/agent/month) and Elite ($175/agent/month). Mitel also offers the MiCloud Connect Contact Center (to 100 agents) that tightly integrates with the company’s MiCloud Connect (formerly ShoreTel Connect CLOUD) multi-tenant cloud-based telephony/UC service and the MiCloud Flex Contact Center, a multi-instance CCaaS solution that tightly integrates with the MiCloud Flex (formerly MiCloud Enterprise) cloud UC platform for medium and large businesses (scales to 1,000 agents). In other news, Mitel joins a number of business communications vendors recently announcing collaboration integrations with Google Cloud's new Contact Center AI solution. Mitel is working on new capabilities that will improve customer engagement and the customer experience, including an AI-powered virtual agent, AI-powered agent assistance and AI-powered analytics. Mitel also announced the timeline for the discontinuance of Toshiba Telecom’s products (acquired in 2017). The final day to purchase new Toshiba and IPedge Systems is October 31, 2018; the final day to purchase parts and licenses is October 31, 2019, and end-of-life for all Toshiba products is October 31, 2021.
net2phone is acquiring Canadian hosted VoIP provider Versature. The merger gives Versature more access to capital for expanding its Canadian operations in terms of channel investment, employee recruitment and technology development. And, with the acquisition in Canada, net2phone further expands its international presence, now operating in countries throughout the Americas including the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia, as well as recently launching in Hong Kong and Spain. net2phone is a distributor-based VoIP solution provider, including hosted PBX and call center services and SIP trunking, for residential, corporate, and mobile customers.
Nice inContact announces the general availability of its CXone Summer 2018 Release. New capabilities include CXone Quality Management Analytics Pro (applies speech and text analytics to select the right interactions for quality evaluations and agent coaching sessions), enhanced omnichannel capabilities (adds two new social channels – Instagram and Viber) and updates related to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance. In other news, NICE and Cloud9 Technologies are integrating Cloud9’s C9 Trader platform and the NICE Trading Recording System, with an eye toward ensuring regulation compliance related to recording trade communications.
Ooma has introduced the DP1 Wireless Desk Phone for Ooma Office business customers and Ooma Telo residential customers. The new phone pairs wirelessly with an Ooma base station via the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT 6.0) protocol to enable wireless communications within a range of 150 feet. DP1 sells for an MSRP of $89.99 ($109.99 in Canada). In other news, Ooma will offer the Talkdesk contact center cloud services to its Ooma Enterprise UCaaS customers. Talkdesk will add Ooma Enterprise to its Talkdesk AppConnect store.
Plantronics introduces the new Elara 60 Series mobile phone solution (iOS or Android), a new category of product for mobile users that need desktop capabilities (keypad, battery charger, speakerphone, headset, handset options) while in the office. Elara 60 also enables one-touch or voice-activated Microsoft Teams integration. General availability is expected in first quarter of 2019. Polycom, now part of Plantronics, introduces an updated line of VVX business IP phones. The new VVX 150, VVX 250, VVX 350, and VVX 450 feature Polycom Acoustic Fence technology that eliminates extraneous noises, echoes and distractions and also bring color screen phones to the low end of the market. All phone models are available now and integrate with more than 60 call control platforms worldwide. Polycom has also begun certifying service providers on its new cloud service, PDMS-SP, for provisioning, managing and monitoring its desk and conference room phones.
Ribbon Communications is partnering with Over.ai to incorporate its natural language voice AI platform into Ribbon’s unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) and communications platform as-a-service (CPaaS) offers. More specifically, the companies will integrate Over.ai’s conversational capabilities into Ribbon’s Kandy Live Support Wrapper, allowing a visitor/customer to engage with an AI-based agent from a website, then escalate the conversation to a live agent if needed. Ribbon will also integrate Over.ai’s virtual assistant “Omega” into its UC solutions, enabling users to use voice commands for sending emails or texts, to set up meetings, or get answers to questions.
RingCentral joins a number of business communications vendors recently announcing collaboration integrations with Google Cloud's new Contact Center AI solution. The two companies are working on applying AI in multiple areas of RingCentral Contact Center to improve customer engagement and agent productivity. In other news, AT&T decided to continue supporting and reselling the RingCentral Office cloud-based platform branded as AT&T Office@Hand, offering this service to previously targeted SMBs, but also now to the larger enterprise market (earlier this year, AT&T had informed its AT&T Office@Hand customers that it would be transitioning away from RingCentral). BT also announced it will be offering RingCentral to medium and large enterprise customers in the UK, rebranding and enhancing BT Cloud Phone as BT Cloud Work hosted by RingCentral UK, Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of RingCentral, Inc.
Sangoma Technologies has completed the acquisition of Digium, combining two major open source providers as Digium offers the Asterisk communications development platform and Sangoma’s FreePBX is an open-source PBX built on Asterisk. For now, the merged company states its ongoing commitment to both projects, as well as to each company’s PBX/UC premises and cloud-based products (Digium’s Switchvox and Sangoma’s PBXact). Sangoma also offers VoIP gateways, session border controllers and telecom interface cards and Microsoft Skype for Business related products. The Sangoma-Digium merger creates a larger company in terms of employees (now 300+), but also a stronger distribution network that positions the combined company for larger global opportunities. This is Sangoma’s seventh acquisition in seven years. In related news, Sangoma released its Cloud PBXact UCaaS and SIPStation SIP Trunking service in the United Kingdom market.
Slack has acquired the Hipchat and Stride workflow productivity applications from rival company Atlassian, with the two companies agreeing to work together on a migration program to move Hipchat and Stride users over to the Slack team collaboration platform. Hipchat was an early entry in the team collaboration space, launching in 2010, but was acquired two years later by Atlassian. Subsequently, Atlassian built its next-gen team communications tool called Stride which became generally available just this past March. Atlassian will no longer offer team applications products to its customers, formally discontinuing Hipchat Cloud, Hipchat Data Center, Hipchat Server and Stride to focus on core products that include Jira Software, Trello, Confluence, Bitbucket and Jira Service Desk. Existing Hipchat Cloud and Stride customers will be able to continue to add users and use these products until February 15, 2019. Existing Hipchat Data Center and Hipchat Server customers will receive support through the end of their license period. In other news, Slack has acquired Astro, a developer of mail and messaging tools, including the “Astrobot for Slack” application that connects email, calendar and the Slack team-based tool. Users can manage emails and check Office 365 or Google calendars without leaving Slack, as well as perform searches that bring back results from both Slack and email.
Swyx has merged with Within Reach Group (WRG), the parent company of Voiceworks, and the two have acquired French software developer Centile Telecom Applications, creating a European market leader in Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), with a broader range of offerings that includes on-premises solutions, public cloud services and a white-label model. Swyx sells integrated communication solutions through 1,200 resellers in 24 European countries. Voiceworks integrates fixed, mobile and web communications in a cloud product for small and medium-sized businesses and sells them through over 200 wholesale partners. Centile’s scalable, multi-tenant cloud UC and FMC platform (ISTRA) is currently used by more than 100 service providers in 20 countries (more than 600,000 end users). Combined, the three companies serve about two million end users via more than 1,400 resellers and service providers in various European countries (core markets include Germany, the Netherlands and France).
Twilio has acquired workforce optimization (WFO) software company and long-time partner, Ytica. Twilio is integrating Ytica’s WFO analytics and reporting into its forthcoming Twilio Flex programmable and customizable contact center as-a-service (CCaaS) application. Twilio has been in the contact center market since 2008, providing communications APIs for other vendors to build customized contact center solutions, but with Flex, Twilio will now compete with its own CCaaS offer. Twilio Flex will have pre-integrated WFO as a core capability that allows supervisors to provide real-time feedback to their contact center agents using analytics, reports, dashboards and integrated third party apps. For workforce management (WFM) capabilities, Flex's will integrate with various WFM partners such as Verint, Teleopti and Calabrio. Twilio Flex has been tested to support very large organizations with up to 50,000 agents (possibly more in the future). General availability is set for October 2018.
Vonage announced it will acquire the privately-held NewVoiceMedia cloud contact center provider, combining Vonage's Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) and Communications Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS) solutions with NewVoiceMedia's cloud contact center as-a-service (CCaaS) offerings. Vonage has been partnering with NICE inContact for contact center capabilities and states that it will continue to do so, depending on customer needs. NewVoiceMedia is said to have deep integrations with Salesforce.com and scales to handle larger-scale global deployments (has more than 700 primarily mid-market and enterprise customers today). The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2018. In other news, Vonage introduced VonageFlow, a new proprietary workstream collaboration solution (now available in beta) compatible with the Vonage Business Cloud (VBC) platform. Also, Vonage is acquiring TokBox to extend its communications API platform Nexmo with video capabilities, allowing developers to integrate live video into applications and websites. The Nexmo Connect Partner Program (Nexmo Connect) has more than 100 partners to date, including Microsoft, Facebook, MuleSoft, Built.io, Tray.io, Converse.ai, and Aspect Software.
West is acquiring INXPO, Inc. and its enterprise video platform for webcasts and online events. The acquisition is expected to complement and augment the features and functionality of West’s existing Digital Media Services for webcasting and webhosting (formerly of Nasdaq Corporate Solutions), potentially creating an industry leader in online broadcasting for marketing activities, corporate communications, sales enablement and training events. The transaction is expected to close by mid-October. This marks West’s fifth acquisition this year.
Yealink and Microsoft have certified five Yealink devices for Microsoft Teams, including personal devices (T56A, T58A) and conferencing devices (VC200, CP960 and Skype Room Systems) for offices, huddle rooms and large conference rooms. These devices come embedded with the Teams application and offer a consistent user interface for the calling and meeting features of Teams. In other news, Yealink phones are now available via a Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) program that makes that makes its desktop business phones and conferencing devices available as a monthly subscription. Instead of buying and stocking the equipment upfront, Yealink service provider partners simply pay a monthly fee for the phones or devices, thereby avoiding the usual financial risks of purchasing and owning equipment. The partner can then pass on this flexibility to their own customers, allowing them to rent hardware on a month-to-month basis with the option to cancel at any point. The DaaS program is available through Yealink distributors only.
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