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NEC Releases Next Major Univerge Generation

There's a lot to talk about in NEC's announcement of Univerge 3C, the next generation of the company's core Unified Communications platform. NEC touches all the bases in the announcement: collaboration, contact center, mobility/BYOD, cloud, virtualization.

I want to focus on one area that I think is a pretty distinctive part of the announcement: NEC's approach to federation, which has become a hot topic in UC, primarily because of its elusiveness.

Fred Knight and I got a preview of the Univerge 3C announcement a couple of weeks back at NEC's offices in the Chicago area, in a chat with GM Jay Krauser and product management SVP Todd Landry. NEC had also given a preliminary view of its approach to the UC client at last year's Enterprise Connect, when they showed a client based on the Adobe AIR runtime that lets the client run in HTML, making it far more versatile than your typical vendor's UC client.

Now with Univerge 3C, NEC is including the capability to launch and join meetings via either a standalone Univerge UC client or simply a Web URL. You could argue that this isn't that different from what Cisco has with WebEx, but Cisco hasn't integrated WebEx into its UC platform to the extent that this NEC release represents a Web-client integration.

And Todd Landry says the ability to collaborate with anyone on an ad hoc basis, whether inside the enterprise or outside, was an important focus for NEC. "The big issue around federation is, how easy is it to collaborate--whether you're in the same enterprise or not?" Todd said.

NEC did release a separate standalone UC client for the iPhone and iPad, so that the client can draw from the mobile device's native capabilities. The aim is to support BYOD and provide the much-talked-about common user experience across multiple devices.

This (very detailed) schematic shows the full Univerge 3C picture. Jay and Todd stressed the backward-connectivity to legacy NEC systems (shown on the left of the schematic); and as the "Federation" icon at far right indicates, NEC is still open to federating directly with other systems. But the idea of having a web client that's functionally identical to the native client is, you may not need to federate in order to do rich ad hoc collaboration outside the enterprise.

NEC will be showing off the new Univerge 3C at Enterprise Connect the week after next.