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ShoreTel Sky: What's in a Name?

Would that which we call a cloud by any other name sound as sweet? Today ShoreTel announced a brand name for its cloud solution: ShoreTel Sky. ShoreTel acquired M5 Networks in February 2012 and since that time it has been known as M5, ShoreTel's Cloud Division. When I heard the news, I had a few questions that ShoreTel's CMO, Kevin Gavin, was kind enough to address during a telephone interview.

Why a name change now? Isn't it fairly soon after the acquisition to make a change?
Gavin reports that the timing was dictated by how quickly the re-branding could be done. One of the reasons M5 wanted to be acquired was to gain the (relatively stronger) ShoreTel brand. It made sense to permanently brand the M5 solutions to ShoreTel quickly.

Another reason was to avoid building the M5 brand. Aided by new ShoreTel channels and direct sales people, M5 had revenues of $14.3 million for the recently ended quarter, adding 135 new customers. Bookings were 43% higher than M5's same quarter last year. With that kind of growth, it made sense for customers and prospects alike to start learning and using the ShoreTel brand.

Why Sky instead of Cloud?
Since M5 has been known as the ShoreTel Cloud Division, why not just go with ShoreTel Cloud? Gavin admits that his initial inclination was to do just that. But Gina Jacobs, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at ShoreTel, convinced him that it made sense to explore alternatives. If they didn't find something the team liked better, they'd be happy with ShoreTel Cloud.

They brought in a brand consultant who worked with them to choose ShoreTel Sky. A few of the reasons they believed it was better than cloud include:

* There is no uniqueness with cloud. Everyone is using it.
* The alliteration of ShoreTel Sky is catchy, sounds good.
* Sky has lots of positive associations, for example "sky is the limit" and "blue sky." Cloud on the other hand has some negative ones, like "cloudy day" or "cloudy future." Apparently the consultant helped make the point that associations matter by comparing how well Apple worked as a brand name versus, say, pear. Apple of your eye? Yes. Pear of... ?

Gavin reports that the four-person branding team gave ShoreTel Sky "eight thumbs up." Though being publicly launched today, employees and partners given an early preview were "exuberantly enthusiastic" with the choice.

Press release says, "ShoreTel is developing an architecture that allows the applications to be accessed on-premise or in the cloud." That's a big promise. When can we expect to see that?

The first proof point that ShoreTel and former-M5 applications will co-exist well together is ShoreTel Mobility, which has already been added to the M5 cloud UC offer. The long term strategy is to "write once, sell twice," as in applications like conferencing or contact center. While not a reality today, ShoreTel's plan is to build an architecture where a premises customer could become a subscriber to a fully-integrated Sky Conferencing.

The M5 cloud acquisition was initially dismissed by some competitors as a solution completely separate from ShoreTel's CPE offer. While making no specific promises or giving any dates, Gavin makes it clear that