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Technology companies sometimes have to overhaul themselves and their products to become more relevant to customers.

Today Unify Inc. – formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications – performs its biggest overhaul by releasing its long-awaited Web-based unified communications suite, called Circuit.

Formerly known by its code name, Project Ansible, it’s a cloud application that allows teams to easily find members and pull them in for ad hoc meetings over voice, video or instant messaging, allowing them to share and save documents. Users can also shift from one device to another – say, start a meeting on a smart phone and then shift to a laptop to take advantage of a larger screen – and not lose the session.

But users need a WebRTC-capabile browser. So far, that’s only Firefox and Chrome.

Circuit's interface can show multiple screens at once
Circuit’s interface can show multiple screens at once

The service is launching in the U.S., Britain and Germany. Canadians can sign up for a trial registration, although the suite is only available in English In an interview Diane Salvatora, the company’s vice-president of North American portfolio management, said a bilingual version might start “after the (December) holidays.”

When it comes it will be priced at US$14.95 a user per month, regardless of the number of devices each user has. To lure customers Unify is offering a 60 day free trial, and enterprises that sign for a year get the first five months free.

Salvatora said IT administrators don’t need any training to sign up staff for the service, just add a user’s name and email. In fact, she added, the company believes Circuit is so intuitive it won’t be offered with a manual or training (although tips are available when a cursor hovers over a menu).

It’s a big bet for a company that has historically sold office desktop and wireless phones, soft clients and its OpenScape Enterprise unified communications suite.

Circuit has its own file repository for sharing documents; for the moment it can’t reach into enterprise stores. However, Salvatora said it is developing APIs so the suite can integrate with other business applications. Unify also hopes vendors will also create links to their apps.

Forrester Research analyst Art Schoeller said in an email that Circuit is aimed at the trend of integrating business applications, social networking, and unified communications.

“Unify understands that they need to shift to a more indirect (sales) model and to the cloud. This aligns with long term trend of the consumerization of IT.” Unify sees with Circuit that they have an opportunity to sell to individual lines of business, he added.

It does face a number of competitors including enterprises that have already invest in UC solutions like Microsoft Lync.

“This is a first release and Unify needs to deliver on a future roadmap that should include a strong set of API’s, SDK’s” said Schoeller. “It is critical for Circuit to be an attractive platform for developers so Unify can support an ecosystem of business applications and extensions into vertical markets.”

 



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