NEC Unveils UC Portfolio For Enterprise, SMB

Last month, NEC Unified Solutions President Jeffrey Kane promised some drastic changes to the Irving, Texas-based vendor's lineup of communications offerings.

"The focus you'll see from us over the next couple of years is integration," he said.

Those changes, which include revamping the NEC's entire product line to focus more on interfaces and devices and less on backend infrastructure, were cemented Wednesday when NEC announced a host of new communications solutions for both the enterprise and SMB under its Univerge360 approach.

According to Kane, Univerge360 puts people in the center of communications when building a communications solution. The solutions are role-based, meaning once the users' roles are defined, NEC will build the communications tools to help meet the company's needs and add in specific elements of unified communications (UC) and integrate them into existing business processes.

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One Tuesday, NEC released a new portfolio of business software for its Univerge SV7000 IP communications server and the new SV8500 enterprise server. Additionally, NEC launched a new line of modular IP and digital terminals, the Univerge DT700 and DT300 to support both enterprise and SMBs.

"There are many buzzwords in the industry today including unified communications, fixed mobile convergence and Voice over IP, but the fact remains that enterprises need to know how to integrate these communications into their business process based on the role of their employees," Kane said.

First among the enterprise solutions is the Univerge UC700 Desktop Client, combining UC functionality in a single application with click-to-dial and clipboard dialer, presence-based call routing, communication history information, voice, video and Web conferencing, white boarding, screen sharing, screen capture and screen pops for incoming messages. UC700 offers a consolidated message center interface that displaces voice messages, email, instant messages and fax messages in a single pane, Kane said.

NEC also unveiled the Univerge MC530 Mobile Client, which takes UC mobile, extending unified messaging from business IP communication systems to mobile devices. The Mobile Client software accesses VoIP application services for dial-mode Wi-Fi and cellular devices with a unified user experience in either mode. It ties the desk phone and mobile device together with one phone number, making a device a viable work tool in and outside of the office. The client also mobilizes presence through a GUI and supports devices running Microsoft Windows Mobile 5, Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry and Symbian operating systems.

The Univerge UM8500 Unified Messaging System, which works with both the UC700 desktop and MC530 mobile clients, is a unified messaging solution that includes VideoMail, find me/follow me capability and ViewCall for desktop call control. UM8500 integrates with Microsoft Exchange Server allowing the system to read aloud a schedule of the day's activities up to one year in advance.

NEC also released the latest software, R24, for the Univerge SV7000 VoIP communications server, wrapping in new features and support, including unified communications; softphone; and opens standards that allows for SIP-enabled devices, LDAP-compliant databases, Java XML, 802.11 a/b/g WLAN and Power over Ethernet. NEC will launch its generation enterprise communications server, the Univerge SV8500 this summer.

Next: NEC Targets SMB

Also, NEC announced the new Univerge OW5000 API, a media gateway integrating both NEC and other third party UC solutions like Microsoft Office Communications Server, IBM Lotus Sametime and hundreds of other applications. Lastly, for the enterprise, NEC updated the Univerge MA4000 Management System, a Web-based management applications that offers remote access through a Web portal to configure communications tools based on individual needs.

But NEC on Wednesday didn't stop at the enterprise, the vendor also announced a number of role-enabled communications solutions for the SMB market, making new solutions available through NEC partners and direct from the vendor.

The Univerge SV8100 and SV8300 are communications servers for SMBs that support applications like call number and name display, conferencing, soft keys, voicemail, unified messaging, speed dialing and automatic call distribution. Both servers support NEC's UC for Business single-server UC applications. The SV8300 version supports the UC for Enterprise suite of applications for larger deployments.

Other enterprise updates include the new DT700 and DT300 terminal series that include IP and digital terminals that add new features to desktop phones, such as SIP support, support for VoIP and tradition voice and XML open interface support.

Kane said the goal of NEC's shift is designed to make it easier and more economical to deploy unified communications solutions, while also focusing on the business case.

"UC is not the end-state, but a business enabler," he said. "CEOs don't talk about presence; they say 'I want the call to come to me.'"

For the channel, Kane said NEC is putting a significant amount of money, time and energy into channel programs to get partners up to snuff with the sweeping changes.

"All of this new stuff changes what they do pretty dramatically," he said.

Paul Lopez, general manager of marketing and services for NEC said there will be some challenges for the channel, but over time those will thin out. Lopez said NEC has a training plan in place to give partners updates on the products, but getting them ready from the business process and integration side of things may take a little longer.

"You have to provide either a shrink-wrapped solution or almost like a getting started proof-of-concept design," he said.

Kane said VARs can offer professional services wrapped around the new product set. They can also help clients align investments in unified communications, giving them a clear path toward UC without an infrastructure forklift.

Kane said a big part of the Univerge360 vision is interoperation with other market leaders in the UC space, including Cisco Systems, Microsoft and IBM. All of the new tools are based on open standards, meaning ISVs can write once across a single platform.

"I think we're all trying to get to the same place," Kane said of the competition. "The goal is to have any kind of communications you want to do available at any moment. We're trying to become an end-to-end communications company."