ShoreTel Expands Video, IM Capabilities in UC Platform

ShoreTel is embracing open standards such as H.264 and SIP as it grows the video conferencing features in ShoreTel 13.

ShoreTel is expanding the video conferencing and instant messaging capabilities of its unified communications platform, leveraging open standards to help businesses increase employee productivity.

The company€™s ShoreTel 13 software release, announced July 17, takes advantage of new capabilities within ShoreTel Communicator, the platform€™s call manager application, to broaden the video collaboration and IM features.

The updated ShoreTel Communicator enables users to participate in room-based video conferences using desktops or laptops that support the H.264 industry standard. ShoreTel already has begun integrating its offering with systems from LifeSize Communications, Logitech€™s video communications business, and Polycom, and is working to become certified with other vendors, according to Jeff Ridley, ShoreTel€™s director of product management.

The use of the H.264 protocol is part of ShoreTel€™s larger embrace of open standards, including Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), to make unified communications (UC) more ubiquitous, Ridley told eWEEK.

€œWith this release [of ShoreTel 13], we are emphasizing the openness of the platform,€ he said.

Video collaboration is increasingly important as enterprises look for ways to improve employee productivity, improve communications and reduce corporate costs, such as travel expenses. Users now are looking to be able to leverage the systems they have to communicate with others, regardless of whose technology is being used, Ridley said.

By having ShoreTel 13 support the H.264 standard, users can participate in room-based video conferences through their desktop PCs or notebooks. Users, through their PCs, can dial into the room-based system and they become part of the video conference.

€œWhat the world didn€™t need is another video standard,€ Kevin Gavin, ShoreTel€™s chief marketing officer, told eWEEK.

It made more sense to leverage H.264 and SIP to give users the capability to easily connect into video conferences from their PCs, Gavin said. ShoreTel leverages multiple open interfaces that enable easy integration of third-party applications from video collaboration vendors.

The simplicity of the solution is a key differentiator for ShoreTel, he said. Other vendors, like Cisco Systems, may also offer similar capabilities, but they tend to be more complex and difficult to use.

ShoreTel also is expanding the instant messaging capability to all users by enabling IM in ShoreTel Communicator for Personal Access at no extra cost. Before, the IM capability had only been available in the company€™s Professional version, Ridley said. Businesses through ShoreTel Communicator also can use standards-based IM servers, including ShoreTel€™s own XMPP IM server or Microsoft€™s Lynch, Gavin said.

Instant messaging is becoming a key form of communication for employees, making it important to increase access to it, Ridley said.

€œWe see it as basic as the phone to communications,€ he said.

ShoreTel 13 also includes enhancements to SIP interfaces, extending enterprise contact center agent capabilities enabled from SIP trunking service providers.