Architecture Planning is Key for Enterprise UC
By Marty Parker
It is very important to have a solid architectural design to guide your UC implementations. Of course, UC should start with a high-level UC Strategy, based on our UC definition of "communications integrated to optimize business processes." That strategy will outline the sequence of UC investments and application roll-outs, whether those are for User Productivity (UC-U) or are for Business Process improvements (UC-B), as described in the UC Resources section of our site.
Many of the architectural elements described in this article already exists within the enterprise architecture (directories, business applications, middleware, and more). UC should use the existing resource were appropriate or, at least, easily integrate to those existing, often mission critical elements.
With that UC strategy in place, you will be able to design the guiding architecture.
Apple's iPad - The Third Device for Mobile UC
By Michael Finneran
When the iPad was first announced I was not impressed, and questioned Apple's ability to thrive in the table market where others had seen moderate success at best. The problem I had was figuring out what the iPad was, and more importantly, where would somebody use it. Was it a book reader, a web surfer, a game console, an emailer, or what? The iPad seemed to incorporate a Swiss Army knife range of capabilities providing a grab bag of functions that were already being done on a variety of other devices. When you added the fact this couldn't make phone calls, didn't have video and lacked components like a DVD player, where was this elegant new gadget going to fit?
Lacking a real keyboard, the iPad didn't seem to be a realistic replacement for a traditional laptop. On the other hand, the form factor (9.56" by 7.47" by .5" thick) meant it didn't fit in your pocket like a smartphone. Women who favor big purses could have an adequate means of transport, but for those of us who don't see the "man purse" as a budding fashion statement, what the heck was I supposed to do with this thing?
Then I tried one. Reams have been written on the iPhone's touch screen interface, but you haven't lived until you've experienced the iPad. One of my son's friends brought his over and we connected on our Wi-Fi network. This thing is just flat out exciting from the moment you touch it. I'm not an iPhone zealot, though the process of flicking through screens is fun and intuitive; those are two words you hear a lot when Apple products are discussed. When you put that same type of interface on a bigger screen (9.7" diagonal) the experience is just awesome. Whatever you're doing with it, it's just hard to put the iPad down.
The big question is, "What will enterprise users do with an iPad?", and my answer is simply, "Whatever they can!" It's not going to be a replacement for your smartphone that will go with you anywhere or for your laptop that will remain your "serious" computing platform, but it will undoubtedly carve out a position as an alternative or "Third" computing platform.
Virtual Numbers With Real Value
By Dave Michels
Virtual number services provide a new number to an old phone. It is a clever cloud concept that solves lots of problems associated with mobile and distributed workforces and delivers UC as a service. For workers on the go, making and receiving calls is fraught with problems. Call forwarding helps, but can be hard to deactivate remotely. The simple approach of giving out the cell number makes it hard to limit availability to just friends and family when appropriate. Then there is the nightmare of outbound callerID management - make a call from one private phone and get return calls there for life.
Enterprise equipment vendors are rapidly embracing the cell phone as a virtual extension. These offerings are so feature rich that the need for a desktop phone becomes questionable. Virtual number services go one step further and the need for premise based equipment (or upgrades) becomes questionable.
Virtual number services combine call rules with a web portal and whatever phone the customer has - often mobile phones. Incoming calls can be routed to any phone number, and there are a variety of methods to address callerID on outbound calls. The most well known virtual number service is Google Voice, but it's a consumer service lacking many features businesses require. For example, Google Voice has no administrative portal to manage all of the company's numbers, nor does it have a solution for an auto attendant.
But two new virtual service numbers are targeting the office with business class services. These are highly innovative offerings that question the very need for premise based upgrades. Ringio was launched last April and offers businesses a fairly tightly integrated solution for CRM. Open VBX launched in June by Twilio offers extensive APIs and capabilities.
Alteva's Hosted UC Solution - Bringing Voice to the Desktop
By Jon Arnold
Hosted UC offerings come in many varieties, and Alteva has a solution that brings the best of VoIP and Microsoft together for SMBs.
I've been following Philadelphia-based Alteva for some time, and have gotten to know them from their participation at the BroadSoft Connections event. Most recently, they were part of the launch of the Cloud Communications Alliance, which I wrote about exclusively here on this portal, which was one of the very first sources to announce this important initiative.
Their latest twist is focusing on the value proposition of hosted UC, something which a lot of providers are talking about lately. Many may be talking about it, but Alteva has long had a strong relationship with Microsoft, as has BroadSoft. When you put the three pieces together, you really do have the makings of a solid hosted UC offering. Microsoft brings the ubiquity of their desktop applications, BroadSoft brings the underlying UC platform, and Alteva ties it together and integrates both voice and connectivity into the equation.
InfoComm Conference Highlights Recent Quantum Improvements in Videoconferencing Technology
By Lisa Pierce
I am in the process of finalizing a report on Telepresence and HD videoconferencing, and have followed the developments made at this month's InfoComm conference with great interest. At InfoComm, many suppliers made important product announcements that (1) broaden the reach of telepresence or HD video conferencing experiences, and (2) effectively reduce the price of HD videoconferencing. Combined, they substantially improve the value of videoconferencing to business customers. I expect both of these trends will accelerate over the upcoming 12-18 months. This is very good news for enterprises, medium and even small businesses, because many of these developments will increase the value and usability of videoconferencing. Well over 230 product announcements were made at InfoComm. I'll highlight just a few to illustrate my points:
Polycomm's OTX 300 announcement. Polycomm expects this 1040p room-based system to use roughly 50% of the bandwidth required by many other 1040p systems (see http://www.ucstrategies.com/unified-communications-newsroom/polycom-otx-300-debuts.aspx ). This High Profile/AVC product is targeted to bandwidth-constrained organizations who don't have the budgets to remodel for telepresence rooms, but want some of the same ‘immersive' benefits. Such companies plan to improve the quality and quantity of in-house collaboration they engage in -particularly for intra-company communications. In addition to being targeted to existing Polycom HDX installations, likely early target markets are highly distributed organizations, for example, companies in retail, banking and insurance.
HP's announcement expanding the Halo line. HP's Halo managed telepresence service is one of the bar-setting experiences at the high end of the market. But the experience comes with an equally high price, one that most companies can't afford. HP has been expanding its ecosystem - for instance, it has a longstanding agreement with Polycom and also had a multi-year alliance with Tandberg. But Cisco's recent acquisition of Tandberg made it important for HP to seek new partners. One such company is Vidyo, which makes a range of products from software-based solutions that support 720p conferences on HP TouchSmart PCs to high-end 1440p multipoint room-based systems (that run on HP servers). I don't expect this to be the last of HP's partnership announcements, but it demonstrates the importance of (1) not rely exclusively on in-house products, and (2) offering a broad product line that supports videoconferencing across a range of user environments.
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