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October 26, 2006

Cisco's Unified Communications Goes Mobile

By Erik Linask, Group Managing Editor

Earlier this year, Cisco unveiled its Unified Communications system, which is designed to help businesses integrate their communications systems with their IT infrastructure onto a single, unified communications platform. With it, users are able to communicate more effectively by leveraging all of the various network services anywhere, any time, with any device. But with the mobile workforce segment only growing, it is crucial for workers to remain in touch while on the road as well as in the office.

Now, Cisco has looking to meet that need, taking its Unified Communications proposition one step further, to the cellular realm, by announcing it’s agreement to purchase San Jose, California-based Orative Corp. for $31 million, which will enable the extension of Cisco’s Unified Communications portfolio to mobile devices. Essentially, Orative (News - Alert) offers a client application that “sits on top of a cell phone and communicates to the server, which, in turn, communicates to 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 the 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 a 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 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 it 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.

With its new mobile capabilities, Cisco is set to fulfill its promise to extend Unified Communications from the office to the mobile world. The integration of the Orative solution into Cisco’s Call Manager, MeetingPlace, and Unity products will enable a new level of productivity for mobile workers and transforming the mobile phone into a true business device.

“This really is the next wave of where Cisco is going, and it can have an immediate impact,” said Hadden-Boyd.


Erik Linask is Associate Editor of INTERNET TELEPHONY. Most recently, he was Managing Editor at Global Custodian, an international securities services publication. To see more of his articles, please visit Erik Linask’s columnist page.

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