10th Annual Well-Connected Awards: Digital Convergence

If your company has been slow to implement convergence plans, this year's winners may give you cause to pick up the pace.

May 11, 2004

5 Min Read
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Streaming media can open new channels of communication in the enterprise. Viable solutions range from MPEG-1 to MPEG-4 and include Microsoft's ASF (Advanced Streaming Format) as well as RealNetwork's RealVideo codec. Although MPEG-2 is coming on strong in products like Apple QuickTime and VBrick Systems' VBXcast, this market has yet to proclaim a ubiquitous standard to deliver video. But keep your eye on it. With the growing demand for video by mobile consumers, embedded players on handheld devices may dictate a winner.


IP Centrex

WINNER: vPBX. GoBeam, (866) GOBEAM9, (925) 314-3631. www.gobeam.com

As long as your network can handle the extra traffic, IP Centrex services, provided by carriers, offer all the benefits of an IP PBX without having to purchase and maintain new equipment. And these services are being offered at a cost that's difficult to ignore--at the time we tested its product, GoBeam offered unlimited local and long distance starting at $36.95 per user for 100 users. GoBeam's service, like those from finalists ICG Communications and MCI, lets you access voicemail and place calls from a Web browser, as well as enable IM (instant messaging) capabilities. But GoBeam with vPBX went the extra distance to supply Web conferencing, fax messaging and contact-manager integration. It also came with the best Web front-end "dashboard" to configure and use the system in a tabular layout. Access to contacts, conference calling, call logs and a handy How To Find Me feature were all available with one click of the mouse.

FINALISTS: VoicePipe. ICG Communications, (877) HELLO-ICG, (303) 414-5000. www.icgcomm.com

MCI Advantage. MCI, (800) 465-7187, (703) 886-5600. www.mci.com

SIP PhoneWINNER: SoundPoint IP 600 SIP 1.06. Polycom, (800) POLYCOM, (925) 924-6000. www.polycom.com

We looked at a number of IP/SIP phones and found them business-class and enterprise-ready. They all supported PoE (Power over Ethernet), as well as G.711 and G.729 audio codecs to compress and decompress voice over the network at 64 Kbps and 8 Kbps, respectively. And most important, each product provided solid IP connectivity and SIP interoperability. But Polycom's SoundPoint IP 600 phone stood out for its rich feature set, ease of use and helpful diagnostic capabilities, earning it top honors for its category and convergence product of the year. For incoming calls, the SoundPoint displays the number on a well-lit LCD screen. Four context-sensitive buttons border the bottom of the LCD; their functionality changes with context. When calls are received, for example, the options include hold, transfer, end call and conference. Still more buttons are available for configuration, and all were easy to spot and easy on the fingers.

FINALISTS: Mitel Networks 5055 SIP Phone 2.0. Mitel Networks, (800) 267-6244, (613) 592-2122. www.mitel.com

OptiPoint 400 Standard SIP 2.2. Siemens Information & Communication Networks, (800) 743-6367, (561) 923-5000. www.icn.siemens.com

Convergence Design, Innovation or EnhancementWINNER: Vocera Communications Server Software 2.1 and the Vocera Communications Badge. Vocera Communications, (800) 331-6356, (408) 790-4100. www.vocera.com

The product to DIE for in 2004 converges voice and data into a fashion accessory. Vocera Communications' hands-free Communication System beat out HP's Digital Pen 200 forms automation innovation and Cisco's enhancements to Call Manager and Unity Express for our special Design, Innovation and Enhancement award. In fact, our reviewers called the Vocera offering "one of the slickest systems we've ever tested." Vocera's unique voice over IP system centers on a diminutive (1.5 inches by 4.5 inches, 2 ounces) wireless badge that sports a miniature speakerphone. The badge employs a speech interface that communicates through 802.11b to a server that delivers voice communications and text messaging. The server manages call activity and supplies connections to legacy phones.

FINALISTS: Cisco CallManager Express 1.0 and Cisco Unity Express 1.0. Cisco Systems, (800) 877-0519. www.cisco.com

HP Digital Pen 200. Hewlett-Packard, (800) 888-9909, (650) 857-1501. www.hp.com

SEAN DOHERTY is a technology editor and lawyer based at our Syracuse University Real-World Labs. A former project manager and IT engineer at Syracuse University, Doherty helped develop centrally supported applications and storage systems. Write to him at [email protected].» "The Survivors Guide to 2004: Converged Voice, Video and Data"

» "SIP Packs a Punch"

» "A VoIP Wake-Up Call" SoundPoint IP 600 SIP 1.06. Polycom, (800) POLYCOM, (925) 924-6000. www.polycom.com
Polycom is known for the quality of the speakerphones in its videoconferencing products and SoundStation conference phones. With the SoundPoint IP 600, the company added IP phones with SIP support to its rsum. The product has an intuitive design that makes it easy to use, and it comes with customizable features and advanced diagnostic capabilities that include local call statistics, IP configuration and network usage. Organizations will be relieved to finally have business features like speakerphones and buttons for call-transfer, hold, forward and volume control in a standards-compliant IP phone. Also, the SoundPoint IP 600 goes beyond voice, with its capability to send and receive instant messages, though IMing is still best done with a computer and full-size keyboard.

Convergence Product of the Year

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