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10/4/2004
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Toshiba Offers IP Telephony For Small Companies

The Strata CIX system is designed to deliver features to a range of devices, including phones, PDAs, wireless handsets, and IP softphones on laptop computers.

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. introduced on Monday an IP business-communications systems designed for small and midsized businesses that supports up to 672 ports and offers a built-in scripting language to help create new applications relatively easily.

As part of the rollout of the Strata CIX, which will be generally available in the next month or two, Toshiba's digital-solutions division also introduced a personal administration tool that lets users set up speed-dial numbers and program feature buttons using a Web browser. A system-administration tool called eManager lets IT staff manage both the CIX and Toshiba's Strategy ES Voice Processing systems. Toshiba also has a line of IP phones, including desktop phones, wireless phones, and softphones for use with PDAs, laptops, and tablet PCs.

While designed for IP telephony, the CIX can be enabled for conventional time-division multiplexed phones to let customers run a mix of IP and TDM equipment. Toshiba says the system offers more than 200 features, including letting a user route incoming calls to any device or location. The FeatureFlex scripting language can be used to create applications that can retrieve data from back-office systems and display it on the phones, gather stock, weather, and financial data from online sources, and set up special call-handling features for routing important calls. Toshiba hopes that third-party developers will use the language to create additional applications for customers.

The vendor also is offering the Strata Media Applications Server, which can host a variety of applications from Toshiba and third parties on a single platform that uses Host Media Processing technology from Intel. Among the applications supported by the media server are auto attendant, voice mail, automated speech recognition, text-to-speech, unified messaging, interactive voice response, and automatic call distribution and reporting.

Toshiba, a leading supplier of key systems, or conventional voice systems for small and midsized markets, is starting anew in the IP telephony market, say analysts. It will be competing against a variety of major companies, including Avaya, Cisco Systems, and Mitel. "Toshiba's system offers some flexibility in terms of programming and features, which could make it a compelling product," says Will Stofega, a senior research analyst with IDC. "But it's an ultracompetitive market, and small and midsized business are extremely price sensitive."

The CIX and IP phones are available through resellers, which will set the prices. Toshiba estimates the CIX will cost around $500 to $800 per user station without voice mail and between $560 and $900 with voice mail. The SoftIPT softphone client for PCs costs around $160 and the WIPT2000 Wireless IP Telephone is priced at $595.

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