The vendors we spoke with each think that their solution is the best way to ride the wave of convergence. Here are some of the arguments that floated past us:
The Integrated Communications Platform (ICP) vendors are delivering a complete office solution. Even Vertical Networks product is called InstantOffice. Their goal is to provide everything the small to midsize business needs. And all the VAR needs to do is point a browser to one site and manage it remotely.
The IP-PBX vendors say products like InstantOffice and Praxons PDX cant keep up with the technological innovations that are spurred on by separate vendors. The ICP vendors shoot back, saying any product that doesnt do it all is just another box to manage, creating a headache for the VAR.
Artisoft would like us to believe that theyre all wrong. The ICP vendors are proprietary, the IP-PBX vendors are proprietary, and the market is moving toward open systems.
Artisoft is banking its future on a framework established by the Enterprise Computer Telephony Forum (www.ectf.org). The framework addresses system architecture, administration, application interoperability, call control, telephony services and hardware interoperability.
This framework gives developers a platform to design products using interoperable, modular components in an open system architecture (like writing any application to work on Windows—its not really open, but it is a standard). Some of the non-CT Media vendors say the standard could change at any moment, so they dont want to allocate the resources to comply with it. And if and when it does become a standard, theyll be ready to jump on board.
Among the companies that are supporting CT Media are Artisoft, Brooktrout, Compaq, HP, Microsoft (with Windows 2000) and 3Com. While CT Media is poised to become a de facto standard, it remains a proposed industry standard, even though it has some heavy players backing it.