Bring-your-own-device policies and are enabling the anywhere workforce and increasing the need for unified communications and collaboration (UCC) tools, according to recent studies. Ninety percent of 1,105 respondents to the 2012 IDG Enterprise Unified Communications and Collaboration survey said they plan to invest in UCC in the next year, with 52% spending on telepresence. Vendors are responding accordingly, with tools to enable UCC.
Hot on the heels of Cisco's recent WebEx upgrades comes news from Mitel of an appliance that fits into a company's communications infrastructure to enable low-cost collaboration. In related news, Vidyo, a provider of personal telepresence, announced a partnership to integrate its high-definition, multipoint video communications product for desktop, mobile and room communications with Mitel's UCC offering.
Mitel's UC360 Collaboration Point has an audio and video bridge that enables up to four participants on a conference call and connects into a projector without the need for a computer. That way, presentations can be shared remotely on the device either from Dropbox or Google Docs in the cloud, or by using a USB stick to pull documents.
"We see a gap ... between doing personal collaboration and full-on video conferencing, and we heard from customers that they are looking for an all-in-one multimedia collaboration appliance that can be applied in a number of offices," says Peter Couse, portfolio manager at Mitel. The feedback the company got was customers want "to share documents, do Web and video conferencing [on a device that] is priced cost-effectively in multiple offices, instead of the traditional way of deploying video conferencing in offices."
UC360 Collaboration Point is priced at less than $2,000, and is designed for companies whose facilities may not be equipped with collaboration capabilities, says Couse. "The beauty of this is it's an all-in-one [device] that integrates all forms of media."
UC360 Collaboration Point is filling a niche between an executive desktop video conferencing system (a user gets a decent-sized screen but it sits on a desk, so if the user wants more than one person involved in a video conference it can be awkward), and the traditional, room-based system, says Melanie Turek, VP of research, at Frost & Sullivan.
"You can put it in any executive office, or I see lot of possibilities with smaller offices sitting empty, and this will allow more than one person to participate comfortably," she says. "But it has the ease of use of a desktop system or PC-based video."
Video conferencing systems should be as easy to use as making a phone call, says Turek, "which is not true of the advanced, more expensive systems. This device does that and makes it easy to upload content."
She adds that she likes that the unified communications tool has a separate camera so a person can position it the way he or she wants, and that it will hook up to screens of any size.
The company says the UC360 is vendor-neutral and can communicate with Polycom and other video conferencing systems.