Siemens Enterprise Communications is now Unify, a rebranding effort three years in the making.
At simultaneous events in New York City and Munich, executives with the unified communications company unveiled the new name and released more details of Project Ansible, a UC platform first introduced in June.
Along with the events in New York and Germany, Unify executives said the company is launching an aggressive campaign to increase awareness of the new name, including advertising both online and in print across business, trade and industry publications in such markets as the United States, Germany, Great Britain and Brazil. The new name lets the company—which is jointly owned by Siemens and investment group Gores Group and created in 2008—differentiate itself from the wide range of products that Siemens sells, from air conditioning units to medical equipment.
However, Unify’s launch event was marred somewhat by a webcast that apparently was unable to handle the demand, with the video stream freezing and making it impossible for many people to watch what was happening. The frustration spilled over into the ongoing Twitter feed, where the clear enthusiasm of Unify employees and industry observers was interspersed by comments about the webcast.
“Rebranding 3 years in the making. Someone forgot to tell the network guys. Oops,” read one comment.
“Note to Siemens: Ironic for a UC rebrand launch to have streaming video problems,” read another.
Networking problems aside, Unify officials are expecting the new brand and their Project Ansible platform to give the company momentum in a crowded UC market that holds the promise of easier and less costly collaboration but has yet to see the kind of growth many vendors and analysts have been predicting.
Still, IDC analysts have the UC technologies and services market at more than $26.2 billion in 2013 and growing to almost $38 billion by 2016, a sizeable opportunity for all vendors.
“Unify is uniquely positioned to lead our customers and the industry toward the emergence of a new way to work that will transform how enterprises communicate and collaborate, where technology will amplify the collective effort of information workers, energize teams and processes, and enhance business performance,” Unify CEO Hamid Akhavan said in a statement.
The key for Unify will be the Ansible platform, which is designed to seamlessly aggregate all communications streams—from voice and video to social software, analytics, text, search and business applications—and to enable businesses to manage it all centrally via a single common user interface. Currently, the various management tools for conferencing, collaboration and content tend to be segmented, forcing users to do a lot of the integration themselves, company officials have said.
The first version of the Ansible platform will be a cloud-based software-as-a-services (SaaS) offering that will support four communications channels simultaneously—voice, video, text and remote screen sharing, according to Unify executives.
In addition, users will be able to move multichannel conversations without interruption from one device to another through a simple gesture or “call swipe,” they said. Project Ansible also will not only support Unify technologies—such as the company’s OpenScape UC portfolio—but also corporate telephony offerings from rivals likes Cisco Systems and Avaya.
Siemens Enterprise Communications Becomes Unify
Unify’s push comes at a time when interest in unified communications is ramping up, thanks to such trends as greater mobility, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and the increased use of video. At the same time, young people who have been raised on consumer video communications tools like Skype and social media are entering the workplace expecting to be able to collaborate with the same kinds of tools. UC in the cloud also will have a growing impact on adoption of the technology, Rich Costello, senior research analyst of UC in IDC’s Enterprise Communications Infrastructure unit, told eWEEK in April.
Reaction to Unify’s new brand and its plans with Project Ansible has been positive. Noting that Unify made its announcement the same day that Avaya introduced its Collaboration Environment—a platform for more easily developing UC apps—Irwin Lazar, an analyst with the Nemertes Research Group, said there is “a new dynamic in UC, the transition from a market focused around IP telephony to one focused on software.”
“Taken together, these announcements highlight the transformation of UC away from its voice-centric past to one where a variety of collaboration channels are brought together, integrated with business process applications, to enable collaboration in context, improving the value of UC, and the productivity of those who use it,” Lazar said in a post on the Nemertes blog.
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, said the new brand and Ansible are a good start, but urged Unify officials to focus on mobile and the cloud, to leverage Ansible to create an “easy-to-use, customizable workspace in which workers can bring in different applications, data and conversations,” and to ensure that the APIs and software-developer kits (SDKs) they release that enable programmers to build applications integrated with Ansible functionality can be used by developers with little or no telephony knowledge.
“Lots of UC vendors have this vision, but you still need [‘old phone guys’] to build the apps,” Kerravala wrote in a post on the No Jitter blog site. “Getting rid of this requirement will go a long way to making Unify appeal to a different audience.”
He also urged Unify officials to be aggressive when building out Ansible and other products.
“The final thing I would like to see from Unify is to see the company step on the gas and keep the pedal down,” Kerravala wrote, noting that “the old Siemens actually did see some of the market shifts coming but let others define the market. OpenScape is a great example of this, where the company launched the product and within a year was lost in the noise of a bunch of other UC products. … I’m hoping that next year at this time I’m sick of hearing about Ansible and Unify because that means the company got the product, vision, customer wins and whatever else out in front of this audience enough to make it top of mind.”