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11/15/2010
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Mitel Unveils Cloud UC Service

Unified communications (UC) hardware (basically IP PBXes) has become a losing proposition for suppliers as hardware has become commoditized. In response, Mitel continued its evolution away from hardware to becoming a software supplier with a series of announcements, including a cloud UC service.

Unified communications (UC) hardware (basically IP PBXes) has become a losing proposition for suppliers as hardware has become commoditized. In response, Mitel continued its evolution away from hardware to becoming a software supplier with a series of announcements, including a cloud UC service.Mitel extended its Mitel Freedom software architecture, with a cloud service, support for desktop virtualization, and integration with more mobile devices. Mitel AnyWare is a cloud-based UC service where users pay for various services from IP handsets to long distance. The service has a monthly per-user subscription fee, with pricing starting at about $35.

The vendor's UC applications now work with VMware View, a desktop virtualization system. Users gain access to voice and data applications by logging into any computer on a company's network. In addition, the vendor's UC applications now run on Google Android, Research in Motion BlackBerry PlayBook, and Apple Inc. iPad devices. Sold since 1978, Mitel's products have been popular in small and medium businesses because they have been inexpensive and easy to install. Like other traditional PBX suppliers, Mitel, which operates in more than 90 countries, has been forced to make some dramatic adjustments during the past few years as the market has shifted dramatically.

The Freedom architecture seems to be in line with what next generation UC suppliers are delivering as most are focusing more on software and less on hardware. Support for desktop virtualization solutions is important as that computing option has recently been gaining more popularity. Mobile devices are becoming key business enablers, so support the new handsets and tablets makes sense. The movement into cloud computing fits with the industry shift away from premises based to off site based IT applications. However by running its UC service itself, Mitel may create friction with its reseller partners, who number 1,600 and largely serve SMBs.

In addition, the UC market is gaining a lot of attention as companies try to deploy richer communications applications. Mitel is a relatively small market player: it generated $648 million in 2010. With larger companies, such a Cisco and Microsoft, taking aim at this space, Mitel will need to remain nimble in order to remain viable for the long term.

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