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ShoreTel Launches IP Phones Integrated With Cloud UC Solution

The new ShoreTel 400 Series for Sky gives the vendor a complete cloud-based UC solution to offer customers.

ShoreTel officials are promoting a tightly integrated unified communications solution that includes everything from the cloud platform to the business applications and IP phones.

On the first day of the Enterprise Connect 2014 show March 17 in Orlando, Fla., ShoreTel announced it is shipping its ShoreTel 400 series IP desk phones for Sky, its cloud-based unified communications (UC) solution. Company officials are arguing that using an all-ShoreTel offering brings significant benefits over solutions with third-party products, particularly in ease of use, investment protection and future enhancements.

"We've listened to our customers and created an end-to-end solution that will benefit their businesses," Pej Roshan, vice president of product management at ShoreTel, said in a statement. "By offering an integrated and high-quality cloud service with ShoreTel 400 phones, we are providing customers with a seamless communications solution designed to meet their unique needs. The 400 phones are integrated with ShoreTel's cloud-based PBX and cloud applications, resulting in an unmatched cloud user experience."

With such a tightly integrated solution, customers ensure support for future versions of software and development of the devices. It's more difficult to configure and upgrade solutions that include third-party components, ShoreTel officials said.

The ShoreTel 400 series phones, which are based on the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), come in three models—IP480, IP480G and IP485G—that come with a range of features, from basic phone capabilities to more advanced executive versions that come with backlit, color displays, according to the company. The company has been offering its 400 series phones for on-premises environments since November 2013. The new devices for Sky are available now.

ShoreTel, which for years had sold on-premises-based UC solutions, branched out into the cloud work in 2012 when it bought M5 Networks for $146 million. The company began selling its cloud-based Sky UC offerings—such as ShoreTel Mobility, Conferencing and Contact Center—in November of that year, and more recently has been working to enable customers to run hybrid premises-to-cloud solutions.

In January, the vendor launched ShoreTel 14.2, which aims to enable companies to deploy their UC solutions in whatever way best suits them—in a hardware-based model, entirely within a virtualized environments or in a combination of both. In addition, however the UC technology is deployed, it can be managed via a single Web-based interface, company officials said.

UC is a highly competitive space, populated by the likes of Cisco Systems and Microsoft's Lync offering. IDC analysts last year said they expect the market to grow to more than $38 billion by 2016, with trends such as greater workforce mobility, cloud computing and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) helping to drive growth.