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Mitel: Role Based Pricing; "Telecollaboration"

There's telepresence, teleconferencing, tell a friend, tell someone who cares, tell me about it, the Telltale Heart, Telly Savalas, Penn and Teller, and now, courtesy of Mitel: Telecollaboration. Though it won't be out until 1Q09, and Mitel won't say how much it'll cost, they're billing it as high-end video with a lower price tag and better collaboration functionality than the $300K "immersive" telepresence.Here's what it looks like:

The appeal is the prominence of the collaboration screen; you give up the rigid demand of telepresence, which tries to make the remote site look exactly as if the people are sitting on the other side of the table. But Mitel's idea is that, not only do you get a better data-collaboration experience than you would with immersive telepresence, you can also include people in the meeting via collaboration only, if they're someplace where they can't participate in the video portion.

The system does have some of the enhancements that make high-end video appealing, such as spatial audio so a person's voice will come from near where his or her image appears; and the video screens are large enough to make people's images appear life-sized.

But whether "telecollaboration" takes its place alongside the other video options for enterprises will depend, of course, on how the pricing comes out.


The other announcements from Mitel here at the show represented another vendor's attempt to package Unified Communications in ways enterprises can adopt in straitened circumstances, which everyone is in these days. Mitel's solution is to break users into three types--Basic, Standard and Professional--according to the level of their communications use, and to build "role-based" packages for each level. The offering breaks down like this:

* Basic--Enables a hard- or softphone and hotdesking; no voice mail. This is for users for whom communications is not critical.

* Standard--The Basic package, plus voice mail with standard unified messaging, and a standard unified communications client.

* Advanced--The Standard package, plus voice mail with advanced UM, mobile phone twinning (i.e., "extension to cellular"); and an advanced UC client with presence.

Notably, Mitel also announced its own presence engine here at VoiceCon; previously, they'd relied on Microsoft or IBM. The company also rebranded its "Your Assistant" client software as "Unified Communicator."

Kevin Johnson of Mitel set out a progression that he says many (though certainly not all) enterprises will likely follow as they move through the UC migration:

1. IP communications (i.e., IP telephony) 2. Mobility 3. Collaboration 4. Presence/UC 5. Communications-enabled Business Processes.

As I say, Kevin's not suggesting that every enterprise will follow this progression step by step, uniformly across the enterprise. But I think that, as a way of framing the priorities that the bulk of enterprises have as they look at next-gen communications, it's as close as you're likely to get.