Cloud-based VoIP and unified communications for the mobile space are both accurately described as growth markets. Though adoption rates may not quite be blistering, cloud UC is gaining traction as ShoreTel throws its offering into the mix.
ShoreTel is a well-established VoIP player that has made a couple of strategic acquisitions. Buying Agito last year gave the premise-centric ShoreTel platforms a mobility-minded boost, and the recent purchase of M5 Networks provided a well-respected anchor in cloud-based VoIP. This brings us to today's news about the next big thing from ShoreTel, which combines compelling elements of all parts of the business. At the same time, what's not quite in the ShoreTel announcement is also significant.
Compliments of the M5-based ShoreTel cloud division, the mobile business communications world just gained another impressive option for unified communications. ShoreTel Mobility leverages the current white-hot BYOD trend to put a powerful app on iDevices that transforms the mobile device into a full-featured office phone. Support for Android and BlackBerry will follow later in 2012, and Mobility fits small and big businesses alike with scaling between 10 users and 5,000.
All desk phone features that business users would expect are included with Mobility, which also benefits from the patented Agito magic that is quite revered for its ability to toggle between mobile networks and the WLAN, seamlessly and midcall if warranted. Current M5 customers will appreciate that mobile phones and desktop instruments will now act as part of the same cloud-based system, with full functional integration between both sides of today's dynamic workforce. But the integration only goes so far at this point, and not all ShoreTel customers can get in on the new Mobile unified communications love.
Given the new the M5 acquisition is, customers fall under two headings: ShoreTel legacy customers are premise-based, using the company's VoIP platform hardware as the functional heart of a system that can accommodate desk phones or mobile users with appropriate apps installed. M5 customers, by contrast, work from a cloud-based telephony framework. The latest Mobility announcement affects the M5 subset of ShoreTel users, not the legacy folks. There is still a ways to go between ShoreTel/M5 "feel" like one company from the mix-and-match perspective, but at the same time the cloud-adverse still have a more traditional VoIP option available from the pre-M5 ShoreTel product set.
As ShoreTel and contemporaries like RingCentral and Mitel continue to shine brighter light on the role of personally owned devices as extensions of business networks, it's likely that advanced functionality like unified communications should see wider adoption. And as more business customers become comfortable with cloud-based network solutions, it will be interesting to see if ShoreTel "loses" business to itself, with existing and new customers perhaps going the cloud UC, M5 road, rather than down the premise-based ShoreTel legacy path. Regardless, BYOD-mania prevails, and the industry will continue building solutions on that.
Note: I have no relationship with ShoreTel.