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ShoreTel Growing Up, One Release at a Time

ShoreTel has been an interesting company to watch over the past 16 years. Incorporated as Shoreline Teleworks in 1996 (changed to ShoreTel in 2004), Shasta Networks was its first customer in 1998, with 144 users on Shoreline Teleworks Version 1. By Version 3 in 2001, the system could support 5,000 users. In 2008, ShoreTel purchased the source code for the contact center solution they were OEMing (EasyRun) so that they could more tightly integrate it into the software. By April 2010, the company had shipped its one-millionth VoIP phone. In the last two years, ShoreTel has kept abreast of the changing tides in the communications software space by making acquisitions to accelerate their entry into the mobility and cloud markets.

This week ShoreTel announced availability of its latest release, ShoreTel 13. Several aspects of the release struck a chord with me, highlighting the growing sophistication of ShoreTel's solutions:

* One stone that competitors love to throw ShoreTel's way is that the system is proprietary, as in this nugget from a How to Win Against ShoreTel document: "Limitations: Based on a proprietary system with limited opportunity to introduce new productivity-enhancing endpoints." ShoreTel has clearly taken this particular criticism to heart; the lead of this week's press release read, “ShoreTel Expands Support of Open Standards....” Proof points include use of XMPP for presence, support for H.264 AVC endpoints and membership in the UC Interoperability Forum.

* Similar to Cisco's Jabber for Everyone initiative, with this release instant messaging becomes a standard feature for all users (in the past an upgraded license was required). Further, customers can power IM (and presence) using either ShoreTel Instant Messaging or Microsoft OCS 2007 or Lync 2010.

* Enterprise-ready SIP Trunking. While ShoreTel has supported SIP trunking for a couple of years, ShoreTel 13 brings full feature parity with TDM, including support for contact center-specific features like barge-in, call recording, and whisper.

Based on the steady improvements that ShoreTel has been making in its solution and go-to-market, it’s not surprising that data from Synergy Research in June 2012 shows ShoreTel ranked third in the U.S. telephony market. Synergy reported that ShoreTel’s enterprise IP telephony revenue market share went from 6.5 percent in 4Q11 to 7.7 percent in 1Q12. Also not surprising that a user looking to replace Nortel BCM asking about Avaya IP Office versus cloud offers on an online forum last week got this reply: Go ShoreTel.