With the surge of interest in unified messaging (UM) technologies among larger enterprises, major contenders have adopted very different approaches to this market.
For instance, the UM game plan adopted by a key player, Cisco Systems Inc., can be summed up in four words: integrated selling and promotion.
In keeping with this strategy, the San Jose, Calif.-based company is:
-Moving away from selling individual servers and applications for IP-based communications and focusing instead on the system as a whole, including technical support services.
-On the marketing front, Cisco is bundling up its tools for all kinds of communication in enterprises and giving the set an appropriately broad brand name: the Cisco Unified Communications system. The range of products covers voice, e-mail, text, collaboration and videoconferencing capabilities, as well as the ability to reach the right person on the first try on no matter what device they are using through presence technology.
The cornerstone of this strategy, of course, is Cisco's current IP Communications line up - namely its CallManager, Unity, MeetingPlace and IP Contact Center products.
New needs, new products
To these, the firm has added three major software products that address three separate user needs.
Cisco Unified Personal Communicator is designed to help users reach all their communications applications, such as voice calling, text messaging and videoconferencing, and move from one to another within the same desktop interface.
It lets them search existing directories, and see whether a contact is currently available and what device that person would prefer to use. Users can "click to call" from the directory to start a voice or videoconferencing session.
The Cisco Unified Presence Server collects information about users' availability on various devices and publishes that information to Cisco IP phones, Cisco Personal Communicator and third-party services and applications such as Microsoft Corp. Live Communications Server 2005 and IBM Corp. Lotus Sametime.
The Customer Interaction Analyzer monitors calls in which a customer talks to a live agent or automated system in a call center. It uses information from those calls, such as tone of voice and keywords, to determine whether customers are getting what they need and are happy with the level of service.
The lessons gleaned can be used to direct subsequent calls, change procedures and train agents, according to Cisco. The system can be used with other vendors' phones, including traditional circuit-switched phones.
Both Cisco and Microsoft Corp. are pushing hard to get their unified clients on the desktop, says Howard Anderson, a technology analyst and founder of Yankee Group and YankeeTek.
He says Cisco's Unified Communicator and Microsoft's MS Communicator essentially do the same thing. "Cisco comes at this from the enterprise communications view, Microsoft from its desktop pinnacle. They will fight it out at the desktop and server levels for presence."