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Siemens Enterprise Communications Ups Stake in UC

Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEN Group) announced a boatload of new UC-focused product offerings and services yesterday, including: two UC upgrades to existing products (OpenScape Xpressions V6 and OpenScape UC Application V3R1); a new set of OpenScale UC integration services and solutions; several very aggressively-priced UC product bundles; and a new OpenScale software assurance subscription plan.(For those new to the industry Siemens pioneered today's evolving UC market space with the introduction of the first full-featured solution, OpenScape, in cooperation with Microsoft several years ago, ahead of the current crowd.)

OpenScape Xpressions version 6, based on Siemens' messaging system platform, now provides UC functionality in a compact packaged design that doesn't require any changes to the customer's existing telephony infrastructure, according to Siemens. It is primarily targeted at new and existing HiPath 4000 and OpenScape Xpressions customers because it's a simple upgrade from the current version of OpenScape Xpressions, simplifying the transition from Voice Mail or UM to UC, and easier to justify from a financial perspective. In addition, the solution continues to be supported on at least a dozen other telephony platforms including OpenScape Voice. Among the available new features are integrated Instant Messaging, user-based Presence, Voice and Web Conferencing, and plug-ins for Microsoft Outlook/IBM Lotus Notes for click-to-call and conferencing.

The OpenScape UC Application V3R1 continues as the company's flagship standalone UC solution built on SOA (Services Oriented Architecture) open standards and interfaces. New enhancements in this release include: mobile clients for the Apple iPhone and RIM Blackberry; Web conferencing connectors to Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Live Meeting, and IBM Lotus Sametime; integration with OpenFire (an open source IM solution) for customers without IM today or those looking to replace an expensive in-place IM system; multi-party IM support (send IM to several people at once); presence automation with the Microsoft Outlook Calendar; conferencing enhancements including Microsoft Outlook Calendar Appointment integration; Point-to-Point Video support (H.263); support for geographically separated OpenScape Voice nodes; support for Microsoft OCS 2007 IM and Presence; and Netviewer Web Conferencing, initially on a project-specific basis.

OpenScale UC Integration Services and Solutions offerings target customers who are integrating their UC technologies with existing business applications. They build on Siemens' OpenSOA approach which allows for deep business process integration into virtually any existing line of business application to seamlessly provide rich communications-enabled business processes (CEBP) and are based on their OpenScale methodology of Evaluate, Design, Implement, Operate and Improve.

The new integration services & solutions include: Professional Services Suite for UC, which offers professional services for realization of UC projects based on the OpenScape UC Application; Customized UC Integration Solutions; UC Deployment Solutions to support customer-specific infrastructure environments, allowing the solutions to work in any technology environment; UC Security Solutions that address all relevant security requirements for implementing UC solutions to help prevent disaster, failure or attack to systems; and OpenScape UC Integration Accessories that deliver pre-packaged UC enhancements for the OpenScape UC Application such as Groupware Integration (IBM Lotus Notes, MS Outlook) or Web Collaboration Integration (MS Live Meeting, IBM Sametime, Cisco WebEx).

The new UC price bundles combine several features in three different offerings. These bundles contain only software licenses, not servers. The OpenScape Voice bundle (bundle #1), for $215 (165 Euros) per license, includes the following: OpenScape UC Server Base License; OpenScape Voice Dynamic User; OpenScape Xpressions UM User; OpenScape Personal SIP User; and User Mobility. It is targeted at a basic voice and UM installation. This would be the customer's first step towards UC.

The OpenScape Xpressions UC bundle (bundle #2), for $247 (190 Euros) per license, includes the following: OpenScape Xpressions UM User; OpenScape Xpressions CTI User; OpenScape Xpressions IM&P; OpenScape Xpressions Audio Conferencing; OpenScape Xpressions Web Conferencing; OpenScape Xpressions Desktop and Web Client; and OpenScape Voice Portal. This bundle is targeted at HiPath voice customers, and Siemens describes it as a competitive and easy way to upgrade to Unified Communications. For customers using Comscendo+ today, there is a discounted priced at $234 (180 Euros) per license. This reflects the specific license situation for Comscendo+ customers.

The OpenScape Voice and OpenScape UC Application bundle (bundle #3), for $358 (275 Euros) per license, includes the following: OpenScape UC Server Base License; OpenScape Voice Dynamic User; OpenScape Enterprise Team User; OpenScape Xpressions UM User; OpenFire support for IM User; Web Conf Connector Groupware Plug-Ins; OpenScape Desktop, Web, Mobile Client; OpenScape Voice Portal; and User Mobility.

The new OpenScale Software Assurance program is a software subscription fee that is paid quarterly or annually by the customer, which entitles the customer to all software upgrades during the contract period. OpenScale Software Assurance is now available to all customers with a signed maintenance agreement (OpenScale Essential). OpenScale Software Assurance is a mandatory component of the new UC user-based pricing bundles.

During the past few years Siemens' position in the UC market has been overshadowed by competitors such as Microsoft and Cisco Systems, but the vendor's product offerings and capabilities still establish benchmarks for overall performance capabilities. Last year Siemens introduced the first fully integrated single server IP telephony/UC system solution, based on the HiPath 8000 and OpenScape solutions. OpenScape UC Server is still the only converged full-featured telephony and UC software offering. Yesterday's announcements for enhancements to OpenScape and the UC-enhanced Xpressions show that Siemens has not been sitting idly by resting on its laurels. Siemens has one of the world's largest installed bases of enterprise communications system and remains a shipment leader despite the two years it took for Siemens AG to find a partner, Gores Group, for the operating unit. The recently appointed SEN Group CEO Jim O'Neill will be a keynote speaker at next week's VoiceCon, and I am sure he will have some interesting things to say about UC solutions and plans. Siemens should emerge from next week's conference in a much stronger position in the evolving market for UC.