Genband Launches Generation Enterprise, WebRTC-enabled UC
The company delivers on the promise of a WebRTC UC client, and promises a "mobile-first" orientation as it challenges the entrenched players.
Last spring I wrote The Enterprise Side of Genband, highlighting that the company had recently hired a former Nortel and Avaya product management executive, Carl Baptiste, in the newly-created role of SVP of Enterprise Solutions. Eight months later, Genband is launching a broad enterprise initiative and framework, ambitiously named Generation Enterprise. Described as "designed for an increasingly mobile and cloud-based world," the Generation Enterprise solutions "deliver secure communications (HD voice, HD video, collaboration) across multiple devices (tablets, smartphones, desk phones, PCs) and networks (wired and wireless, private and public, TDM and IP)," the company says.
If you took the time to read each word of the preceding paragraph, and didn't just skim it, your reaction might well be, "So many buzzwords." Sometimes it seems as though every enterprise communications company's press releases are a retelling of the same story: That they will support anything anywhere on any device. So what stands out about Generation Enteprise?
* Mobile-first mindset: Baptiste said during our discussion, "We think communications will move to an 8- or 10-inch tablet, with a keyboard." IT executives quickly see the economics of being able to deploy 2-3 of those devices for the same cost as the typical desktop telephone today. Baptiste went on to point out that Genband "can afford to be very disruptive--we're not selling phones." That gives the company the freedom to "go where the puck is going."
* WebRTC-enabled UC Platform: Some companies are promising it, others are demoing it, but Genband is delivering WebRTC (in 1Q14). They were the first to market with a WebRTC session border controller in April 2013 and now are early players with a UC suite. The Smart Office 2.0 component of Generation Enteprise has been in beta test not only at individual enterprises, but a Genband carrier customer has been trialing the solution with its customers. Verticals involved in the trials to date include higher education and healthcare--key industries in the legacy Nortel SL100/CS2100 base as well as early adopters of mobile UC solutions. In fact, during the pre-briefing, Genband demonstrated it to me using a customer's beta environment.
* Emphasis on user experience: As the excitement around solutions like Unify's Project Ansible and Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise's Conversations shows us, visual appeal and usability are key attributes in next-generation solutions. Like both of these firms, Genband enlisted the assistance of a first-class design firm. mPortal has an impressive list of service provider and cable customers, including AT&T and Verizon. I look forward to putting Smart Office 2.0 through its paces at Enterprise Connect.
One of the attributes of the solution that appealed to me was the ability to multi-task within the UC application. Using an iPad, one can "swipe" between a video view of six conference participants and the slide being presented, or swipe to other applications, e.g., Salesforce. Another differentiating feature is multimedia redial--the ability to replicate an earlier multi-party video conference. Both of these features reinforce the mobile-first mantra--improving the usability of applications using the specific strengths of today's mobile devices. Including Salesforce in the swipe feature highlights the broader fact that REST APIS are already available, enabling tight business process integration.
Probably the biggest factors in the success of a new enterprise communications solution are the go-to-market model and distribution channels. Generation Enterprise was announced today at reseller Arrow S3's sales conference, a multi-million dollar event, ranking in the top five of all major UC partner events across the U.S. It highlights both a strong partner that Genband has, as well as their understanding of the make-or-break role partners play in the company's success.