With the Apple iPhone trademark battle now fading from memory, Cisco has forged ahead to its next mission: new business collaboration tools to compete with Avaya and Nortel.
Cisco launched Unified Communications 6.0, a platform for voice, video, and data, at the VoiceCon Spring 2007 conference in Orlando on Monday. The latest iteration of the system offers new features, such as the ability to instantly transfer calls from mobile phones to office phones.
Unified Communications 6.0 is designed to integrate wired, wireless, and mobile devices to serve workers wherever they are. The Unified Mobile Communicator module, for example, gives workers text messaging capabilities, e-mail, and voicemail access. The system works on many different handsets, operating systems, and mobile networks.
In addition to launching Unified Communications 6.0, Cisco rolled out the Unified Wireless IP Phone 7921G. The new model is designed to enhance voice over wireless LAN communications to the enterprise. The phone supports 802.11a/b/g and offers dedicated keys for mute, volume, and "push to talk."
Meanwhile, the new Unified MeetingPlace 6.0 offers Flash-based Web conferencing capabilities. And Cisco's new Unity 5.0 introduces new features that allow users to listen to and answer messages as they are being recorded. Unity 5.0 messages can be encrypted for added security, and set to expire on a certain date.
Abner Germanow, director of enterprise networking research at IDC, said in a published statement that the business case for unified communications centers on improving employee productivity and collaboration options while driving down some of the cost of maintaining multiple communication applications and infrastructures.
Of course, Cisco is not the only networking player to announce new products at VoiceCon in a bid to capitalize on the unified communications business model. Avaya and Nortel, two of Cisco's key rivals in the space, are also offering new wares.
Avaya's Communications Process Manager delivers multiple Web services across its existing Communication Manager, Meeting Exchange, and Voice Protocol products. And Nortel is launching its fourth release of the Multimedia Communications Server 5100, to be integrated with IBM Lotus Notes.
While the landscape for unified communications looks similar across all vendors, said Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala, Cisco shows evidence "outside the traditional communications box thinking" with the latest version of its platform. Unified Communications 6.0, he noted, is one more step toward a more robust Web 2.0 experience.
"Cisco is going to integrate a lot of the Web 2.0 tools, like wikis and blogs, into the use of these suites to create other types of communication and collaboration tools," he said. "The younger generation is driven by instant messaging and blogs and podcasting. Marrying traditional unified communications with social networking tools is an interesting concept."