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ShoreTel Upgrades Enterprise UC Platform

The IP-based unified communications platform, includes web conferencing, high definition audio conferencing, instant messaging, Microsoft Outlook scheduling, and multimedia recording.

ShoreTel is looking to advance its presence in the unified communication (UC) space with the release of ShoreTel 12, an IP-based UC phone platform, which includes web conferencing, high definition audio conferencing, instant messaging, Microsoft Outlook scheduling, and multimedia recording.

ShoreTel claims that ShoreTel 12's setup and configuration process makes it easier for IT administrators to get enterprise-wide communications up and running. The ShoreTel Director browser-based administrative interface can support up to 20,000 local or remote users, doubling the capacity of previous versions.

"We, like our competitors, have offered UC solutions that in the past had separate UC solutions that were bolted on and made available and integrated at certain touch points," said Kevin Gavin, chief marketing officer at ShoreTel, in an interview. "With ShoreTel 12 it is the first time that UC is tightly integrated into the core fabric of the PBX and not bolted on."

ShoreTel 12 includes support for mobile conferencing through smartphones and the company offers a separate mobile UC product that requires a mobility router. ShoreTel mobility routers range from the 100-user capacity RA2000 model priced at $4,995 to the 5,000-user RA6000 model priced at $14,995. There's also a one-time licensing fee of $150 per user and annual support costs that run 10% of the router list price and license fees.

The mobility offering is a result of the company's acquisition of Agito last October. Agito's products extend unified communication capabilities to smartphones.

ShoreTel trails Avaya and Cisco in the UC market. However, Gavin believes that ShoreTel has an advantage in its simplicity of use and implementation.

Avaya on Tuesday debuted version 7.0 of IP Office, its UC system for SMBs and Cisco and Verizon are currently developing a hosted unified communications service.

Another challenge comes from Microsoft's Lync UC offering, which may evolve further as a result of the recently announced Skype acquisition.

ShoreTel has developed a solid following in the UC space, said Gartner analyst Megan Fernandez in an interview. While ShoreTel is at a distinct disadvantage due to the worldwide marketing and sales presence of its competitors Cisco, Avaya, and Microsoft, its product is good enough for it to survive and thrive in the years ahead, she said. Especially as the UC field is going to continue to grow in coming years.

"We expect the UC market to show strong growth," Fernandez said in an interview. "As UC solutions become more mature, and as budgets change across organizations, we really expect more of an investment to be made in unified communications as opposed to standalone, disparate applications sales."

Businesses have myriad technology options for pulling together people and ideas. But getting it right still isn't easy. Also in the new all-digital issue of InformationWeek SMB: A UC champion's survival guide. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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