Two themes stood out at this year's spring VoiceCon conference: green computing and delivering on the early promises of unified communications.
Between the unusual step of having former Vice President Al Gore speak to attendees via Cisco Systems' Telepresence system in the March 19 keynote, and several vendors emphasizing the green features of their wares, the conference really raised awareness of technology's potential contribution to the environment.
Nortel Networks, for example, introduced the Nortel Energy Efficiency Calculator, which allows users to model energy consumption to analyze the impact of current or planned network infrastructure deployments on energy consumption.
Nortel claimed that its calculator shows that Nortel equipment requires less power than competing Cisco products. "It's not just green, it's about saving money. Why pay the Cisco power tax?" asked Net Payne, vice president of North American marketing at Nortel. "The calculator shows real-life data that we save up to 50 percent of power costs over Cisco."
A nod also goes to VoiceCon's organizers for the non-technical efforts, including putting out recycle bins for program guides, lanyards and plastic ID holders. I would add another item to that list: recycle bins for the mountain of empty plastic water bottles.
This year vendors had real progress to show to accompany their talk about unified communications, with the launch of a multitude of products aimed at making voice a component of a wide range of productivity-improving applications.
There were major product launches from Microsoft and Nortel through their Innovative Communications Alliance, as well as showings from Avaya, NEC, Mitel Networks and Polycom, and ShoreTel previewed the upcoming Version 8 of its Professional Call Manager software in its booth at VoiceCon.
In addition to making its user interface easier to use, ShoreTel in the upcoming release will add SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) support between the call manager and IP handsets, one-touch video calling and integration with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Exchange 2007 as well as IBM Lotus Sametime.
ShoreTel was a crowd-pleaser for the second year, with attendees voting ShoreTel best of VoiceCon once again.