Mitel Networks Showcases Intelligent Integration

Convergent communications should be presented not as a more complicated way of using your phone, but as a richer way of using your buddy list, Ellen Muraskin writes.

I met Mitel Networks officials at a West Side hotel in New York last year to see demonstrations of the companys new 3300 Integrated Communications Platform (ICP), Your Assistant desktop application, collaboration software and IP phone sets.

At the time, the demos were impressive but kind of disjointed, with each new aspect at its own draped table. Last week, I met some of the same faces, GUIs and handsets at the companys new permanent demo center in Midtown, and enjoyed a much more cohesive educational experience.

The suite of offices on 34th Street in Manhattan includes an eight-cubicle setup of the 3300, where all of Mitel Network Corp.s converged communications tools, for both regular businesses and call centers, can be shown to media and prospects to good effect.

Visitors can proceed from the demo to the equipment racks, where servers and wiring connections are neatly labeled and their separate roles made clear. Or they can proceed to a white-boarded conference room to draw pictures and discuss possible configurations.

What I liked most about the 3300 ICP last year was its Your Assistant desktop interface. YA has the whole, mixed toolset of instant messaging, click-to-dial, call transfer, call forward, file transfer, and audio and video conferencing that others–PBX vendors and Centrex service providers alike–like to put on whole-screen "dashboards."

But Kanata, Ontario-based Mitel was the first vendor Id seen to shrink all of that functionality down to the manageable size of a buddy list, where it can peaceably coexist with other desktop apps.

YA presents just the expandable features that a user might want, when he or she wants it. Its a design that appears to have borrowed docking, collapsing and expanding UI ideas from the feature-dense graphics packages of Macromedia Inc.

Mitel–along with London-based Skype Technologies SA and Microsoft Corp.s MSN Messenger, when its VOIP aspect works–understands a fundamental notion about convergent communications that others have missed.

Convergent communications cant be presented as a more complicated way of using your phone. They must be presented as a richer way of using your buddy list. This will make perfect sense to a generation of people that already does more communicating over the keyboard than through the dial tone.

Next Page: IMers dont confuse presence with physical location.