Siemens Joins The Fray

The company is scheduled to unveil a communications and collaboration software suite this week at the Spring 2003 VON Trade Show and Expo in San Jose.

Dubbed OpenScape, the suite creates a communications portal where end users can access and manage a variety of features and services, including voice, wireless, e-mail, calendars, instant messaging and conferencing.

OpenScape users can create buddy lists like those commonly used in instant messaging applications to check on the availability of other OpenScape users and can initiate calls and conferences with a mouse click. Users also can set preferences for how they wish to be contacted, so colleagues can tell the best means by which to communicate with each other.

>> The suite creates a communications portal where users can access and manage a variety of features.

With OpenScape, customers can provide improved collaboration among employees while cutting down on travel costs, said Tim Stone, product management director at Norstan Communications, a telecommunications integrator based in Minneapolis. "It's the promise of convergence delivered," he said.

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IP telephony vendors such as Siemens Enterprise Networks, which makes the HiPath portfolio of IP telephony offerings, need to focus on developing productivity applications such as OpenScape to provide a compelling reason for customers to implement voice-over-IP, said Vijay Bhagavath, telecom analyst at Forrester Research.

The suite is based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), an emerging call-control standard, and uses a SIP gateway to interact with PBX, key or IP telephony systems, regardless of manufacturer, said Mark Straton, senior vice president of global marketing at Siemens Enterprise Networks, a Reston-based division of Siemens Information and Communication Networks.

"Even if solution providers have nothing to do with telephony and communications, this is an opportunity for them to get into the collaboration market in a territory they're familiar with, working with Microsoft technology," Straton said.

OpenScape runs on top of Microsoft's forthcoming Greenwich realtime communications server and Windows Server 2003 and is integrated with Active Directory and Exchange 2000.

Future releases will support additional platforms, Straton said.

Initially, solution providers will likely find the most success targeting OpenScape at departments and workgroups within enterprises that focus on mobility and collaboration, such as sales and engineering teams, he said.

OpenScape is scheduled for general availability late in the third quarter for a list price of $400 per user.