For years I have been writing about communications, constantly searching the world for exciting news to share with my readers. Often this job of mine allows me to connect with people who I know are destined to do great things. For example, in the spring of 2003 I ran into Andre Nakaso, one of the cofounders of Orative (News - Alert), and was very impressed with their technology that allows cellphones to have very rich presence and availability.
I even wrote an article entitled, “Presence Meets the Cell Phone Thanks to Orative” (www.tmcnet.com/tmcnet/columns/2004/072304rt.htm) where I detailed how the company’s products enable a corporation’s workers to stay better connected than ever.
As I spoke with Andre I saw in his company’s technology something that could make real my dream of “Just in Time Communications” — or the ability to more efficiently communicate. Using Orative you could send a note to a coworker telling them you want to speak to with them and even transmit the subject of the conversation. The person you are trying to contact could respond when the time is right for them — thus putting them in control over their communications.
In short, I was very impressed with what I saw and I knew the company was onto something very big — Andre had a winner. But at the time, in 2003, things were pretty lousy in the telecom space. Subsequently, I didn’t know what sort of future the company would have as things were pretty rocky.
Still, the company had just received their funding a few months before my visit and I was the first person in the media to discover Orative.
Over time I kept in touch with Andre as I had good feeling about what the company was up to; moreover, I was excited to hear how the company was progressing.
In my last meeting with Andre in San Francisco, he hinted to me that some big things were coming regarding his company but couldn’t elaborate.
Now it can be revealed: The big news is that Cisco just acquired the company and is using Orative’s technology to bring mobility to unified communications.
I recently asked Andre for some of his thoughts on the merger and he told me there has been a huge shift in the telecom space, with wireless minutes surpassing wireline. Andre went on to say that in many companies, decision makers were evaluating top-ofthe- line wireless devices as primary devices of choice for their mobile enterprise workers, since the price of these wireless devices have been steadily dropping, while the features are increasing in number and capability.
Some of the benefits of the Orative solution include Rich Caller ID/call screening, a single voicemail store with voicemail notification on the handset. In addition, users can see the messages and decide which ones they want to listen to. This is a much better scenario than having to scroll through messages serially.
It is no secret that Cisco has been focusing heavily on unified communications and of course if you are going to unify communications you need to bring it to mobile devices as well. This is why the company decided to purchase Orative Corp. (www.orative.com) for $31 million. Essentially, Orative offers a client application that “sits on top of a cell phone and communicates to the server, which, in turn, communicates with Cisco’s Unified Communications products and provides Unified Communications access to the cell phone,” explained Cisco’s director of Mobile Unified Communications Alex Hadden-Boyd.
With Orative software, users will be able to access their corporate directories, use five-digit dialing, use least cost routing, view information about voice messages and click to hear individual messages, and receive notification about MeetingPlace conference calls on mobile devices — essentially, it extends soft client capabilities to the cell phone.
“Cisco wants to do for unified communications what Blackberry has done for push mail,” added Hadden-Boyd. In its quest to extend its popular Call Manager solution to mobile devices, Cisco looked at several potential companies, but opted for Orative (which is also a Cisco Technology Development Partner), because “Orative had best technology and the best architecture for future enhancements,” according to Hadden-Boyd. Future enhancements will include being able to accommodate instant messaging between mobile devices and other IM systems.
Also key is that the Orative solution currently supports four major mobile operating systems — Symbian, Blackberry, BREW, and J2ME — with support for Windows Mobile on the horizon. This makes its deployment considerably easier in the United States, where mobile operators want to certify anything that goes on their networks, because Orative already holds those certifications.
Once the deal is finalized, Cisco will focus on scaling the product to meet the demands of even Cisco’s largest Call Manager customers, of which it has 20 with more than 10,000 users. The company will also introduce a look and feel to the product that mirrors its Unified Personal Communicator product. Cisco expects to bring its new mobile solution to market in early 2007, shortly after closing the transaction.
So, hats off to Orative for seeing this opportunity so far ahead of the market. Although a small company’s acquisition by a large company does not always mean the technology will thrive, I feel the synergy between Cisco and Orative will yield positive results for the combined company and Cisco’s massive sales force will likely do well selling Orative products. Interestingly, rumor has it that a number of other big players were interested in acquiring Orative as well. All in all, I expect the mobility market to continue to be a hot space in 2007.