Vendors ready new unified communications products

Vendors ready new unified communications products

Several major networking companies have plans to introduce unified communications-related products at the VoiceCon Orlando conference that kicks off Monday.

One is a thin client combined with a desktop phone. Mitel and Sun Microsystems are jointly announcing the combination of a Sun Ray thin client with a Mitel IP desk phone to be accessed via a Java-based smart card.

The combined product, called the Sun Ray Unified IP Client from Mitel, would sell for under US$500 and will ship sometime in May, said Stephen Beamish, Mitel's vice president of business development.

With thin-client technology, data and computer programs can be kept on a centralized server, making the new phone and thin-client product ideal for call centers where workers rotate on various shifts and share workstations, Beamish said.

Neither Ottawa-based Mitel nor Sun has an exclusive contract to work together on the project, but have "mutually decided to work together" on what Beamish said is the first product of its kind.

One major benefit of the combined technology is that it lowers power usage to about 9 total watts for both the phone and thin client. Typically, a PC will use 80 watts of power, while a laptop uses 60. Because of the low wattage, both the phone and thin client can operate over a single Power over Ethernet cable, which provides 13 watts of power, Beamish said.

Mitel recently announced that its various communications software applications, known as the Mitel Communications Suite, can run on the SunFire X4150 server.

Deli XL, a food services company in The Netherlands and Belgium, has begun using the Mitel-Sun system for customer contact center operations, according to a Mitel statement.

Bob Hafner, an analyst at Gartner Inc., said he does not expect companies to redefine the way they deliver applications just to be able to use the Mitel/Sun product. However, he said it could be advantageous for companies that are moving to thin-client systems.

Separately, Motorola 's Enterprise Mobility unit plans to demonstrate voice over Wi-Fi products at the conference. The manufacturer has outlined a general road map for product releases over the next two years, including a dual-mode phone that runs across Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

Imran Akbar, general manager of converged enterprise communications, said Motorola's next-generation voice systems will be marketed under the name TotalEnterprise Access and Mobility, which will provide common architecture, security and management to interoperate with an organization's existing voice and data infrastructure, including voice switches and wired and wireless LANs.

Akbar said the first products from Motorola will emerge in the third quarter of this year, and then for the following 18 months. Two durable models of portable phones are part of what's coming, with voice over Wi-Fi planned and the ability to connect to three major voice switches from Avaya Inc. , Cisco Systems Inc. and Nortel Networks , he said.

The dual-mode capabilities will work within industry standards, unlike an earlier version tried three years ago with Avaya, he said. "It will be price competitive ... and runs an application platform with Microsoft," he said.

Robert Arnold, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc., said Motorola has "definitely been behind" other vendors in providing voice over Wi-Fi and extending internal communications capabilities to cellular users. While some competitors have shipped dual-mode phones, Arnold said it "doesn't really hurt them to be late, since adoption of those devices is really slow."

Arnold said for this category of devices, Motorola competes with Research In Motion, Ltd., which has taken its data-centric products and moved them to voice, as well as Nokia Corp. and Siemens Networks. He said Motorola's corporate reorganization does not appear to be a concern for enterprise-class customers, and its products for these customers are selling well. "Motorola is in a good position with industrial products, and it's good to see them in the game," he added.

Also, Nortel Networks joined Tandberg in showing off life-size, full-motion videoconferencing through a new service called Nortel Telepresence Services. Analysts compared the experience to what Hewlett Packard offers through its Halo system and what Cisco offers through its Telepresence gear. Pricing was not announced in advance.

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