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3/31/2003
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Bridging The Communications Gap

Siemens' OpenScape combines all forms of communications in one interface run by a server and connected to the communications infrastructure.

The enterprise division of Siemens AG this week unveils a unique application that combines E-mail, voice mail, instant-messaging contact lists, collaboration tools, calendar, and presence capabilities in one interface run by a server connected to the communications infrastructure.

A Session Initiation Protocol-compliant offering, OpenScape 1.0 bridges the gap between the various methods of communications people use. It also takes IP telephony to the next level. "Our design goal was to develop a communications software applications suite independent of time, distance, and medium," says Mark Straton, VP of global marketing for Siemens Information and Communication Networks Inc. What's more, because it resides on the corporate LAN as an IT application, customers can integrate their ERP or CRM applications with the interface.

Like other integrated inbox or unified-messaging applications, OpenScape provides text-to-speech-to-text for voice and E-mails. But it goes a few steps further by denoting in real time using icons and Microsoft Greenwich presence software how to get in touch with each person on a contact list--via phone, cell phone, instant messaging, or E-mail. Users click on a business partner's name and the software automatically sets up the appropriate connection link. Businesses also can set up collaboration groups. A single click automatically sets up conference calls or Web-based meetings from WebEx Communications Inc.

"This is the vision for voice over IP," says Vijay Bhagavath, a Forrester Research telecom analyst. "Now, we're just putting voice IP packets on a LAN. That is childish. As voice gets on IP and can be integrated with enterprise apps--that's the 'wow' factor."

Siemens is the first vendor to offer such a solution, Bhagavath says. Cisco Systems and Avaya Inc. are among several vendors working on similar capabilities. Cisco says customers could achieve some of the same functionality today, but doing so would require systems-integration work. So far, no one except Siemens has used the tool, but it plans to start trials in May for about 50 companies, each with 50 to 200 users. The application will be sold primarily through partners and resellers and will be priced at about $250 per user.

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