Siemens Offers Web-Based OpenScape UC Solution

Siemens is growing its OpenScape unified communications platform by offering a Web-based solution that is as simple to use as Skype, but with enterprise features.

Siemens Enterprise Communications is preparing to announce enhancements to its OpenScape unified communications platform, with the key enhancement being a new cloud-based collaboration offering.

Siemens' OpenScape Web Collaboration solution is designed to enable businesses to easily, quickly and cost-effectively launch a collaboration session among multiple participants. In addition to the cloud-based offering, OpenScape UC Suite 2011 includes a host of productivity and collaboration applications for Siemens' OpenStage phones, as well as updates to OpenScape Video and OpenScape Mobility, which now includes a greater number of mobile clients, including the Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices.

The company, which will formally announce the new and enhanced offerings Dec. 7, is looking to create a UC family of offerings that enable businesses to collaborate any time on any device, in any fashion, from e-mail to video, according to Ross Sedgewick, vice president for global solutions marketing at Siemens.

"The common thread [in all the new offerings] is expanding our footprint in the collaboration space," Sedgewick said in an interview with eWEEK.

The unified communications space is a fast-growing and increasingly competitive one, as businesses look for ways to increase employee productivity while reducing costs in such areas as travel. In a report Nov. 18, market research firm Dell'Oro Group noted that, thanks to the efforts of Cisco Systems, Microsoft and Avaya, the UC space in the third quarter saw its strongest revenue growth in two years, with revenue jumping 7 percent over the same period in 2009.

Dell'Oro analyst Alan Weckel pointed to Microsoft's recent release of its Lync UC platform as a catalyst that will help the market continue to surge.

"Despite pockets of weakness reappearing, we believe that the unified communications market will expand significantly in 2010, as existing vendors continue to invest and expand their software offerings and Microsoft begins to actively push Lync," Weckel said in a statement at the time.

Siemens is looking to become a larger player in this arena, and Sedgewick said the OpenScape Web Collaboration solution could be a differentiator for the company. He said the offering brings to businesses the ease of use that consumers get with services like Skype or Apple Facetime with the security, scalability and performance features enterprises demand.

A key point is that all a business needs to do is install the technology on a single server. After that, there are no hardware components or special devices that the business needs to buy. OpenScape Web Collaboration will distribute client agents to people participating in the online conferences, and users can access the conference either through a Web browser or an executable on their devices.

Through the solution, users can participate via chat, e-mail, audio and visual, and on a wide range of devices, including most smartphones. Once the session is over, the user can close the Web browser. If the person gained access through the executable agents, those agents will disappear. Sessions can scale to up to 1,000 participants. They support the H.264 standard and are protected via AES 256-bit encryption and passwords.

"It's completely footprintless," Kathy Heilmann, director of UCC (unified communications and collaboration) solutions marketing at Siemens, said in an interview, noting that after buying the OpenScape Web Collaboration technology that sits on the server, no other Siemens products are necessary to get an online conference going.

Along with the online conferencing offer, Siemens also is offering OpenScape PhoneApps, which offers more than 20 phone applications to IP phones from Siemens. The applications range from messaging, conferencing, alerts and scheduling to buddy status, weather, call block and wake-up calling. In addition, Siemens is offering an SDK (software development kit) to enable businesses to build their own XML applications.

Enhancements to OpenScape Mobility offer UC capabilities on a greater range of mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad. Updates to OpenScape Video include interoperability with video conferencing systems from the likes of LifeSize Communications, Polycom and Cisco's Tandberg business.

The new and enhanced offerings will be available this month.