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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Cisco Systems Inc has decided it's about time to broaden the potential customer base for its voice over IP products, by making a couple of discount bundles available to smaller enterprises than it usually sells to.

The company announced yesterday a number of version releases in its VoIP product line, along with two prepackaged systems for under $20,000, aimed at smaller deployments. Director of product marketing Hank Lambert said smaller firms liked the look of Cisco's VoIP offerings, but had concerns over pricing and interoperability with legacy systems.

"We want to extend the same ROI experienced by larger customers into smaller sites," said Lambert. He said smaller customers wanted lower prices and "did not want to create islands of messaging" by implementing an IP voice network while they already have legacy voice systems.

Unity Bridge 2.0 is an option that can be added onto Unity 3.1, Cisco's unified messaging offering, which increases the interoperability of a company's messaging systems. The Bridge product now supports OctelNet, the analog voice messaging protocol developed years ago by Lucent Technologies Inc. OctelNet has a "very large installed base" that will now be able to work with Unity, Lambert said.

Cisco has also updated its Customer Response Solutions (formerly Customer Response Appliance 2.0), a one-server bundle of Cisco's call center software. Scalability has been increased 50% to 75 agents in the 3.0 release. Another highlight is the ability to route customer calls based on agent skills, to help prevent customers being transferred by agents unable to help them, which wastes the time of both parties.

The company is launching two voice-only bundles aimed at the smaller enterprise. The ICS 7750 comes in two flavors - analog, for $15,995, and digital, for $19,995 - each supporting 50 phones and 25 mailboxes. The packages include CallManager, Unity and Auto Attendant. Lambert said the systems will be upgradeable to the same level of scale as Cisco's existing high-end systems.

Cisco's Media Convergence Server hardware platform has also been upgraded to reflect the latest processors and so on, and its IP SoftPhone software telephone has had a few feature upgrades, such as the ability to work with USB handsets in addition to headsets. The WebAttendant console software has also now been replaced by CallManager Attendant Console, which has extra customization features.

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