Cisco Beefs Up IP

Cisco on Thursday rolled out a laundry list of new and enhanced IP telephony products.

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

The new and enhanced products run the gambit 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 on helping customers achieve greater productivity in their interaction with their customers and suppliers, the San Jose, Calif., company added or enhanced products in unified messaging, IP PBX calling features, audio and video conferencing, customer contact centers and network infrastructure.

For example, in Version 4.0 of the Cisco Unity software, Cisco added the ability for organizations with Lotus Domino to access and manage all messages from a Lotus Notes inbox. By using the same message story and directory as Domino, the new version allows system administrators to be more productive. Unity 4.0 also works with Microsoft Exchange and supports the Voice Profile for Internet Messaging and Session Initiation Protocol. It is due next month.

Also due next month is a new release of the Cisco 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. "An administrator can see whos on hold, whos calling in and pull a call back from hold using a single button," described Hank Lambert, director of product marketing for Ciscos enterprise voice and video unit in San Jose.

New features targeted at the executive 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 Media Convergence Server (MCS), which runs the Call Manager, also includes a new model that can support up to 7500 users and 30,000 IP Phones per cluster of Call Manager servers. The new 7845 MCS is available now.

Cisco also beefed up its IPVC video conferencing family with new models that support Web-based configuration management and password protection for conferences.

The new models are due out by months end.

The new Cisco IP Phone 7905G, due next month, adds a lower entry price option at $168.

In the first quarter of next year, Cisco will release a new version of its Cisco IP Phone Messenger, which will allow Cisco IP Phone users to send and receive instant messages from their phones while they are talking on them.

Cisco in the IP Phone market has the lions share of the market at 54 percent, according to Lambert. Still, rival Nortel Networks is claiming leadership in some areas of IP telephony.

"We brought to market six months ago a very powerful set of applications that take advantage of converged infrastructures for collaborative applications, video conferencing—things Cisco is just now announcing," said Greg Merritt, vice president of enterprise product marketing at Nortel Networks in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

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

That choice is key, believes Tam DellOro, founder of market research firm DellOro Group in Redwood City, Calif. "Users are embracing IP telephony with a hybrid or migratory approach. All the manufacturers have pure IP PBXes, but customers are not taking a leap into the pool completely. They want the PBXes to work with their digital phones," she said.