Although the official announcement won't be made until next week Siemens Enterprise Communications has been holding press briefings on an impending incremental upgrade to its unified communications solutionto be dubbed OpenScape UC Suite 2011.
The centerpiece of the announcement is the addition of a full-blown Web Collaboration component that is not only easy to deploy, it is relatively inexpensive and dead simple to use.
Earlier this week, Enterprise VoIPplanet spoke with two marketing managers from Siemens Ross Sedgewick, senior director for large enterprise solutions, and Kathy Heilmann, director of UCC/Cloud Solutions marketingto get the details.
According to a Frost & Sullivan survey of C-level executives, conducted earlier this year on Seimens' behalf, Web conferencing is at or near the top of the list of IP communications modes that respondents see making a significant contribution to cost reduction and improved operational efficiency and employee productivityall of which, in turn, contribute to a gain in competitive advantage.
"Collaboration solutions are great for achieving these goals," Heilmann told VoIPplanet. "But a lot of companies have not adopted collaboration solutions. We think that's because oftentimes they're complex, expensive, proprietary, and difficult to adopt."
These issues then became targets in the design goals of OpenScape UC Suite 2011.
Indeed, the application installs in about one houron a Windows serveraccording to Sedgewick, and has no client software to download, install, and configure.
"In terms of market impact, we're looking to leverage some of the friendly essence of Apple and Skype simplicity and cross that with an enterprise grade feature setsecurity, reliability, and scalability," Sedgewick said. "We're looking for a best-of-both-worlds capability."
In terms of simplicity, launching a collaboration session with OpenScape Web Collaboration involves no more on the part of the convener than sending out an e-mail invitation to each of the selected participants (which can be done through Outlook).
The e-mail contains links to two different clientsa thin client that is automatically launched directly on the recipient's desktop (not "installed"), or a browser-based client that has less than the full functionality of the thin client.
Once the session is up and running, participants can move freely between desktop and file sharing, IM, and multiparty audio or video conferencing with a couple of mouse clicks, Sedgewick told VoIPplanet.
Pricing for the Web Collaboration package, which can run entirely independently of the rest of OpenScapeor integrate with itis a little under $13,000 US, with a capacity of running ten simultaneous sessions with no limit to the number of end-users. (Each server instance supports a maximum of 1,000 users, depending on multimedia usage.)
Besides the big Web Collaboration news, Sedgewick and Heilmann talked about enhancements to the UC Suite itself coming down the pike in version four.
First, video is more deeply integrated than ever. Interoperability has been added between what Heilmann calls the "multivendor video ecosystem,"high-definition conference room solutions from the likes of Polycom, Tandberg, and LifeSizeand the OpenScape desktop client.
"That kind of interoperability allows you to mix and mingle desktop users and remote users with headquarters conference room users," Sedgewick explained. Moreover it allows a uniform dialing plan whereby all endpoints can be reached by five-digit dialing, with no obscure IP addresses involved.
Video even functions with the broad range of mobile smartphone clients that are a part of the OpenScape Suitedownstream only, for now, but with downstream and upstream planned for next year.
And since all conferencing within OpenScape now takes place via the same bridge, Heilmann explained, participants that don't have access to video can join as audio participants, having the benefits of high-def audio, if their hardware supports it.
Finally, Siemens is introducing a suite of applications that run on the company's OpenStage telephones (models 60 and 80). Some twenty applicationsincluding things like alert and mass alert systems, news, weather, and stock quote feeds, time management, presence information, and the likeship with the Suite.
Components of the phone apps suites can be recombined to create what Heilmann called "semi-custom" applications, using a simpe GUI. And for the programmers, there's a complete developer toolkit with which they can build truly custom XML applications to their hearts' content.