IP Telephony Boosts Productivity

Cisco Unity software can manage messages in Exchange, Notes.

Cisco Systems Inc. last week rolled out a laundry list of new and enhanced IP telephony products designed to help customers increase end-user productivity.

The products run the gamut from a new low-end IP phone to an executive assistant tool that allows administrators to manage phone calls for up to five executives.

With an eye toward helping service providers achieve greater productivity in their interaction with customers and suppliers, the San Jose, Calif., company bolstered products in unified messaging, IP PBX calling, audio and video conferencing, customer contact centers, and network infrastructure.

Version 4.0 of the Cisco Unity software adds the ability for organizations with IBMs Lotus Software divisions Domino to access and manage all messages from a Lotus Notes in-box. Unity 4.0 also works with Microsoft Corp.s Exchange and supports the Voice Profile for Internet Messaging and Session Initiation Protocol. It is due next month.

Also due next month is a release of Ciscos Call Manager call processing software that adds the new IP Manager Assistant, which allows administrators to manage executive calls.

Cisco made changes in call processing and added a program that can display information about many calls simultaneously on a single screen.

New features targeted at executives include a "do not disturb" button, a single button to transfer a call to voice mail and the ability to divert all calls to an assistant.

The MCS (Media Convergence Server), which runs Call Manager, includes a new model that can support up to 7,500 users and 30,000 IP phones per cluster. The new 7845 MCS is available now.

Cisco also beefed up its IPVC videoconferencing family with new models that support Web-based configuration management and password protection for conferences. The models are due by months end. The new Cisco IP Phone 7905G, due next month, adds a lower entry price option at $168.

Cisco IP Phone Stats

  • Number of IP phones shipped 1 million
  • Number of IP communications customers worldwide 6,000
  • Number of Cisco employees using IP communications system 34,000
  • Ciscos share of IP phone market 52 percent
In the first quarter of next year, Cisco will release a new version of its IP Phone Messenger that will allow Cisco IP Phone users to send and receive instant messages from their phones while they are talking on them.

Burger King Corp., which plans to move to the new releases of Unity and Call Manager, hopes to improve productivity in the field as it adds more locations to its IP telephony network, according to Rafael Sanchez, CIO at Burger King, in Miami. "With 600 company restaurants, communications in our business is very key. Our vision is to have all worldwide locations connected through the same IP network," he said.

Cisco has the lions share of the IP phone market at 52 percent, according to officials. Still, rival Nortel Networks Ltd. is claiming leadership in some areas of IP telephony.

Nortel, in Brampton, Ontario, also offers customers a choice of migrating existing PBXes to support IP telephony or replacing those PBXes.

That choice is key, said Tam DellOro, founder of market research company DellOro Group, in Redwood City, Calif. "Users are embracing IP telephony with a hybrid or migratory approach," she said.