ShoreTel has been expanding its unified communications capabilities into the mobile arena since it bought Agito Networks in 2010. The company is now giving its ShoreTel Mobility offering a major update, including extending the video conferencing capabilities available in its desktop solutions to mobile devices.
ShoreTel Mobility 8 leverages the ShoreTel Mobility Client, which enables users to communicate via video between smartphones and tablets running Apple's iOS and Google's Android mobile operating systems through single-touch calling from the key pad, according to company officials. They also can participate from their mobile devices in multi-party video conferences with room-based video communications systems.
In addition, ShoreTel Mobility 8 also supports Microsoft's Windows desktop using the ShoreTel Communicator solution.
"We're delivering the same kinds of abilities that users have come to expect on desktops to mobile devices," Ed Wright, director of product management at ShoreTel, told eWEEK.
With a more mobile workforce and trends such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) hitting the enterprise, businesses are demanding solutions that will let their employees collaborate—particularly over video—anywhere at any time and on any device. Unified communications (UC) vendors are leveraging software and the cloud to help organizations expand their collaboration capabilities.
Analysts see both video and the cloud as key drivers for future growth in the UC market. Analysts at Transparency Market Research in January forecast that the UC market will grow from $22.8 billion in 2011 to $61.9 billion by 2018 as organizations look for more cost-effective and flexible ways to communicate.
With Mobility 8, ShoreTel also is integrating the solution with room-based systems like those from Polycom and LifeSize Communications that support such open standards as H.264/AVC. In addition, the video calls can be made over local or remote WiFi and cellular networks, Wright said.
Mobility 8 was officially announced Aug. 12, but Don Joos, who became ShoreTel's president and CEO last year, mentioned the solution during a conference call to discuss the company's second-quarter financial numbers, stressing its benefits in both video and virtualization.
"We also introduced Mobility 8, which is virtualized with video collaboration so that mobile workers can use single-touch calling for multi-party collaboration, using iOS and Android smartphones or tablets," Joos said, adding that "what we want to be very mindful of is the user experience."
Mobility 8, which is available now for premises-based customers, also includes integration with ShoreTel Communicator, which enables employees to use the same interface they've had for their desktops on their mobile devices. In addition, workers who want to use third-party Web collaboration tools like Cisco Systems' WebEx and Citrix Systems GoToMeeting can use the "join" button for a one-touch audio bridge log-in rather than having to memorize multiple numbers and passcodes.
The new offering also offers greater flexibility by virtualizing the ShoreTel Mobility Router, which will help reduce costs for IT staff and hardware while increasing the overall total cost of ownership (TCO) for deployments. Businesses can either use their existing ShoreTel appliances for the virtual mobility router or deploy the ShoreTel Mobility software on VMware platforms, according to company officials.
ShoreTel's Wright said Mobility 8 gives the company a much more complete mobility portfolio. Much of the effort going forward will focus on creating deeper integration between the features to ensure, for example, that information or capabilities that are available on a worker's tablet also carry across to all of their devices.