March 5, 2007 5:25 PM PST
Cisco takes communications software mobile
The company said Monday that its latest upgrade to its Unified Communications software will enable users to access its full suite of features on mobile devices.
Until now, Cisco's Unified Communications software worked on desktops, but not mobile devices. Now with the software upgrade, mobile users will be able to access all the Unified Communications features, including the company directory. They'll be able to see presence information, which can let them know if a colleague is on the phone or available for a chat. The new software also enables people to view voice mail in their e-mail.
The new software also includes new features designed especially for mobile phones, such as automatically dialing into scheduled conference calls and automatically turning the cell phone's ringer off when the owner's calendar says he is in a meeting.
The new mobile functionality has been made possible by software Cisco acquired from a company called Orative in October 2006.
In the first release of the software available this spring, the new Unified Mobile Communicator will work on smart phones running Microsoft's Windows Mobile, Symbian OS or Research In Motion's BlackBerry operating system. Cisco said it will extend the software in the fall to work with what it calls "feature" phones that use development applications such as Qualcomm's BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless).
Mobile is the next logical step in the evolution of Cisco's Unified Communications product as more companies issue mobile devices to their workers in an effort to make their workforces more productive.
"We see more and more companies giving mobile devices to workers," said Alex Hadden-Boyd, director of Mobile Unified Communications for Cisco. "It's not just the executives who have BlackBerrys anymore. It's middle managers and other employees, too."
Cisco still generates the bulk of its revenue from routers and switches that shuttle IP packets across corporate networks and the Internet. But the company has been pursuing several new markets, such as telephony and video, over the past few years to find new growth markets. So far, Unified Communications is proving to be a winner. During the company's second-quarter earnings call in February, executives said that sales of its Unified Communications products had increased 38 percent compared with a year ago.
Even though sales seem to be strong for this product line, Cisco will likely continue to compete against some tough competitors, including Microsoft, which is working with voice veteran Nortel Networks.