ShoreTel Enhances Cloud UC Solution for Mobile Devices

The company is rolling out ShoreTel Sky Mobility, which enables users to more easily communicate with video through their Apple or Android devices.

cloud UC

ShoreTel is bringing the new mobile-enabled video conferencing capabilities offered in its on-premises solution to its cloud customers.

The unified communications (UC) technology vendor in August released ShoreTel Mobility 8, which among other offerings extended the video conferencing features available in its desktop solutions to mobile devices. Now the company is expanding that even further to users of its cloud-based UC solutions with ShoreTel Sky Mobility, which launched Dec. 16.

Using the ShoreTel Sky Mobility client, customers can communicate with video between smartphones and tablets that run Apple's iOS or Google's Android mobile operating systems, all through a single touch from a keypad, according to company officials.

The move comes as the global workforce becomes more mobile and more employees rely on their mobile devices to keep in touch with colleagues, partners and customers. It also comes as more businesses look to software- and cloud-based video conferencing solutions to better deal with such workforce trends. IDC analysts over the past several years have tracked the declining revenues for video conferencing equipment worldwide.

"The video equipment market results are reflective of the ongoing market transition from a primarily hardware-based reporting model to one impacted by the growing interest in more software-based solutions and video subscription services," Rich Costello, senior analyst of enterprise communications infrastructure at IDC, said in a statement earlier this month after the firm released its latest quarterly market numbers.

The trend toward mobility is changing the face of UC, and in many ways challenging traditional corporate UC offerings, according to Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Nemertes Research. In a post on the No Jitter blog site, Lazar notes that applications like Skype, Dropbox, Google Docs, Kik, WhatsApp and others address customer demands for greater mobile capabilities than are found in most corporate UC offerings.

Vendors are increasingly expanding their UC apps to mobile devices, but user reliance on their mobile devices for communications is outpacing what the vendors are doing, he said. According to Nemertes Research numbers, 4 percent of UC endpoints this year were mobile devices. That number will climb to 11 percent by the end of 2015.

Pej Roshan, vice president of product management at ShoreTel, said that with ShoreTel Sky Mobility, the vendor is looking to address the demands of its customers. Video calls can be placed over local or remote cellular and WiFi networks (and the best network is automatically selected), calls can automatically move from one network to another when needed, and users can add video to existing voice calls or make a video call audio-only.

The ShoreTel Sky Mobility client is easy to install and activate through an intuitive user interface, and includes a "join" button for a way to log into a meeting through a single touch. The button works with Web collaboration tools from other vendors as well.

"ShoreTel Sky Mobility is designed to extend unified communications applications to the device that people love most—their own smartphones," Roshan said in a statement. "Users can now use video communication to be more productive, and also enjoy added enterprise desk phone features such as extension dialing and call transfer on their smartphones."

ShoreTel Sky Mobile is available from resellers or via direct downloads from the Apple App Store or Google Play store.

The new offering continues the efforts ShoreTel has made to grow its mobile collaboration capabilities since it bought Agito Networks in 2010, and then M5 Networks two years later to bolster its cloud-based UC ambitions. ShoreTel next year will launch a common platform for both its on-premises and cloud-based offerings. Some analysts believe that it was the promise of the common platform that convinced rival Mitel—which also is growing its cloud-based UC solution—to make an unsolicited bid for ShoreTel.

ShoreTel officials pushed back at the proposal, and last month Mitel executives withdrew their $574 million offer.