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Cisco refreshes IP convergence line

Cheaper IP phones work more like mobiles

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Cisco Systems last week announced a major revamp of its IP Communications products line.

The new products cover unified messaging, IP PBX calling features, audio/video conferencing, customer contact centres and a low-cost Internet Protocol (IP) phone. Together, the product enhancements are designed to persuade more enterprises of the productivity and cost saving benefits that might come from integrating their disparate voice and data networks.

The Cisco IP Phone 7905G, due next month, features inline power support and a pixel-based display for $165. It is Cisco's cheapest IP phone to date, an important factor since the cost of handsets has been an important factor in delaying the rollout of IP telephony within enterprises.

Several of the products are Cisco announced are designed to deliver productivity applications directly to the user desktop. For example, with the release of the new Cisco IP Phone Messenger 1.1 in Q1 of 2003, Cisco IP Phone users will be able to receive and send instant messages from their phone display while talking on their phone.

The Cisco IP Manager Assistant extends commonly used features such as call filtering, immediate call diversion and line state monitoring to teams of workers. The product is scheduled to ship as an integrated feature of Cisco CallManager 3.3 in December.

Cisco CallManager 3.3, the newest version of Cisco's call processing software, allows network managers to manage fewer IP-PBX clusters with support for 30,000 IP phones per IP-PBX cluster and 10 clusters in a single system. At Cisco's San Jose headquarters, a single IP-PBX CallManager cluster supports more than 20,000 Cisco IP Phone users.

The increased scalability of a single IP-PBX cluster improves calling-feature transparency, eases database administration headaches and simplifies the roll out of productivity applications to users, according to the networking giant.

Cisco CallManager 3.3 also features PBX interoperability improvements with new support for Q.SIG (quality of service) and enhancements to the H.323 (video and audio streaming) protocol.

Supporting Cisco CallManager to improve scalability is the new Cisco 7845 Media Convergence Server (MCS), that allows 7,500 IP phones to operate on a single server. This product is currently shipping.

CiscoWorks IP Telephony Environment Monitor (ITEM) 1.3, available now, allows IT personnel to assess the operational health of Cisco IP Telephony environments in real-time.

Cisco's Unity 4.0 unified messaging software has been extended to support Lotus Domino environments, allowing users to access and manage messages in their Notes inbox using the product. Previous releases only supported Microsoft Exchange environments. Cisco Unity 4.0 will be available next month.

New IP audio and video conferencing products, the Cisco IP/VC 3500 Series, are designed to provide smaller businesses with more natural face-to-face conferencing, using audio/video performance improvements, on-board transcoding and a better GUI. Products should start shipping this month.

Cisco Conference Connection 1.2, available now, provides integrated audio conferencing with Cisco CallManager, allowing users to manage conference calls using a Web browser interface on their Cisco IP Phone or PC desktop.

Full details of Cisco's new portfolio, which include network infrastructure improvements and tighter integration between the networking giant's IP telephony software and CRM applications from Siebel, can be found here. ®

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