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In a much-anticipated move, ShoreTel announced they are releasing a cloud-based version of their ShoreTel Mobility product through its M5 cloud division. ShoreTel picked up the Mobility product with the acquisition of Agito Networks in late 2010, and the cloud business with the acquisition of M5 earlier this year.
The initial offering appears to be considerably more limited than the premises version. The cloud offering will support only iPhones initially. Though they plan to add Android and BlackBerry support over the summer. Other feature enhancements are planned as well.
Given the limitations placed on developers in the iOS platform, full integration with the native dialer is essentially impossible on the iPhone. The ShoreTel application appears as a separate phone icon on the screen but with an orange rather than a green background. Once opened, it mimics the iPhone dialer but with separate contact icons for the local versus the corporate directories. The corporate directory doesn’t provide presence status though the company plans to add it at a future date. Outbound mobile calls (Wi-Fi or cellular ) are routed to the cloud-based IP PBX that in turn places an outbound call to the destination party. The user’s desk number is sent on the caller ID thereby keeping the cellular number hidden. That can be an advantage in BYOD environments where a user can keep their personal number and use the desk number for business calls.
Incoming calls ring to the user’s desk and to the mobile. If the user is within range of an available Wi-Fi network the mobile call is delivered over that; if the user is out of Wi-Fi range, the call is delivered over the cellular network. The solution also has the ability to transparently hand off in-progress calls between the two networks. The advantage there is that calls routed over the Wi-Fi connection are not charged against the user’s cellular plan minutes.
In describing the capabilities, Keith Nealon, ShoreTel’s Division VP, Revenue, stressed the logical user interface. If the user is in Wi-Fi mode and dials a four-digit extension number but the software recognizes a weak Wi-Fi signal, it will automatically switch to cellular and send the full 10-digit number.
Mr. Nealon also referenced a couple of new customers for ShoreTel Mobility including Foursquare and Amnesty International; a speaker from Amnesty actually spoke at ShoreTel’s press event.
Dual mode Wi-Fi cellular systems have been around for years, but never seem to advance beyond niche status. One of the pioneers, DiVitas Networks, has ceased operations; Siemens has dropped its dual mode Mobile Connect product, though NEC still offers its uMobility dual mode solution provided by its partner Varaha. AT&T is also offering the ShoreTel Mobility product under the name Dual Mode Mobile Voice (DMMV).
The need to have a separate dialer to use these dual mode systems has been a real impediment to acceptance; users like the way their phones work and value that more than the extra features they get from something like ShoreTel Mobility. Also, the solution requires a voice-capable wireless LAN and most users, rightly or wrongly, assume their WLAN networks aren’t capable of supporting voice. In reality, any Wi-Fi network can support voice, the real question is “How many simultaneous voice calls per access point can it support?” However, the discussion typically doesn’t get that far because the folks who manage the cellular services have nothing to do with the folks in charge of wireless LANs and vice versa.
So at least we have another option for dual mode fixed mobile convergence, but I’m not so sure that the challenges that have plagued these offerings in the past have been overcome.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?