Enterprise Tablet Shootout
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Unified communications (UC) infrastructure vendor Mitel is adding a Web-based collaboration option to its Mitel Applications Suite (MAS) that lets someone join an online meeting without needing to download any software first, enabling people to participate on short notice. MAS 4.0 also adds Secure Instant Messaging and offers Dynamic Presence on mobile devices, which lets meeting participants see the availability of other persons not on the call who might need to join.
Mitel, like other UC vendors such as ShoreTel and Zultys, is aiming to make its platform more flexible, easier for people to use, and easier for IT staff to manage. This comes amid concerns that UC is becoming a muddled market with various vendors using the UC label and leaving buyers confused.
MAS 4.0 is designed to bring the various components of what Mitel calls Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC)--voice, video, messaging, mobility, presence, collaboration and the like--into one user interface rather than having to juggle separate siloed components, said Wendy Bayley, Mitel's director of solutions marketing.
[ What's coming in unified communications? Read CES Sleeper Tech: 3 Mobile Collaboration Breakthroughs. ]
For meeting hosts, the platform is managed through the Unified Communicator Advanced UC client, Bayley explained. Among other capabilities, it contains a company directory, a click-to-dial function so someone can connect to a colleague just by selecting their name, instant messaging to determine someone's availability for a meeting, and the capability to monitor a collaboration session.
"Essentially, anything you would want to do from a communications perspective, you can do from that one interface," she said. And the platform can be accessed from any desktop or laptop computer and from smartphones and tablets running the Apple iOS or Google Android operating systems.
For participants in meetings, accessing MAS 4.0 without a client download avoids a hassle that can delay meetings, she said.
The Secure Instant Messaging feature was added to address corporate security and privacy issues regarding company communications. Consumer-grade IM solutions from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others have no security protections to speak of, Bayley said. But the Mitel Secure Instant Messaging logs IM sessions where regulations require it and keeps messages secure behind the corporate firewall.
Dynamic Presence is a feature of the Unified Communicator Advanced (UCA) Mobile software app that determines whether people are on the phone or away to determine their availability at a glance.
MAS 4.0 also offers improvements in manageability of the platform for IT administrators, Bayley said. Besides offering a common user interface for different functions, it works in virtualized environments with support for VMware's vSphere 5.0 and vCenter management tools. MAS 4.0 also offers scalability by supporting up to 1,500 users.
Unlike UC/video conferencing systems from Polycom or Cisco, Mitel's software can be run either on Mitel hardware or deployed as software only to be run on industry-standard servers. It can also be used in a private or a public cloud environment.
Windows is currently a nobody in the tablet market. That could change with the release of Windows 8, the first version designed for touch screens and the tablet form factor. With the new Metro user interface, Microsoft will try to serve both tablet and desktop markets. Can it succeed? Find out at our BYTE webcast, What Impact Will Windows 8 Have On The Tablet Market?. It happens March 14. (Free registration required.)