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3/3/2008
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Siemens Debuts OpenScape Unified Communications Server

The company hopes its common, open standards-based UC software will trump competing offerings from vendors like Cisco and IBM.

Taking "a significant step forward in its ongoing transformation into a software-oriented company," Siemens Enterprise Communications on Monday unveiled a new platform for unified communications designed to make it easier for businesses to migrate to an all-in-one communications environment including voice, video, data, instant messaging, and so on.

The announcement follows on the heels of the enterprise unit's announcement last week that it will shed some 6,800 jobs in the process of shutting down and selling off its hardware manufacturing capability. Many of the cuts will come in Germany, where Siemens has historically been a world-leading electronics manufacturer.

The release of the OpenScape Unified Communications Server, as it's called, "compliments perfectly" the downsizing, said Alina Urdaneta, VP of marketing for Siemens' North America division. "We're turning into a software and services company, and we just don't need the overhead and the employees needed in the hardware business model."

Major vendors like Cisco and IBM have long been talking up the advent of unified communications, which will run all enterprise communication applications over the Internet Protocol network and provide a unitary management framework, but the actual penetration of such systems remains low. One problem, said Graham Howard, global marketing director for "large systems" at Siemens Communications, is that UC systems have been too costly and too complex to implement and to integrate.

"There haven't been compelling ROIs shown to customers," said Howard, "and [customers] have been kind of waiting and seeing what goes on with UC applications in the marketplace."

The OpenScape UC Server will change that, Siemens hopes, by offering a common, open standards-based UC software platform that "will make it much easier for customers to evaluate, build, deliver, and manage multimedia, devices, and the network environment," said Urdaneta.

Based on the Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP, the new platform will allow IT departments to integrate hardware and applications from any vendor, the company said. It will also support a suite of new UC applications from Siemens itself, including the renamed OpenScape Voice Application (formerly known as HiPath 8000), OpenScape UC Application, and OpenScape Video.

The latter, said Wayne Seifried, director of marketing for Siemens' enterprise mobility and video solutions unit, is the first fully featured, economical high-definition videoconferencing system that works equally well on desktop computers and in dedicated conference rooms.

"I like to call this 'the democratization of video,'" said Seifried. "We're not going after the same market as Cisco, with its very high-end, quarter-million-dollar TelePresence system. Our price points make this accessible for anyone in the enterprise."

Siemens will be demonstrating the OpenScape system, which goes on sale starting April 30, at the big CeBIT electronics convention in Hanover, Germany, this week.

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