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GENBAND Steals Unify’s WebRTC Thunder With Smart Office 2.0

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GENBAND appears to have beaten Unify (the former Siemens Enterprise Communications) to the WebRTC punch.

Texas-based GENBAND on Tuesday debuted Smart Office 2.0, which features native WebRTC integration, and is built with tablets and smartphones in mind, although it works on laptops and computers as well. WebRTC is all the rage among conferencing and collaboration geeks as it promises to connect potentially billions of people via browsers and endpoints, thanks to the HTML5 standard.

As such, vendors are racing to debut their WebRTC products. Unify says it will launch its Project Ansible platform this summer with WebRTC integration and widely was expected to be the first supplier to do so.

But GENBAND seems to have stolen Unify’s thunder.

That’s because open-source Smart Office 2.0 was designed in HTML5 and its soft client is WebRTC-compliant. Enterprise users collaborate via chat, call, video conference or screen share from devices of their choice. And workers get to rely on just one phone number, no matter the gadget they use.

Further, users may add, remove and switch collaboration tools in mid-conversation. In other words, they may start a conversation in chat, add others, move to an audio call, add video conference and screen share. This all happens within Smart Office 2.0 and does not require users to launch separate applications, download plug ins or load software for basic collaboration.

Smart Office 2.0 is powered by GENBANDs application server, its WebRTC gateway, the company’s session border controller and its call session controllers. Buyers have to install those components, but they do not necessarily need new endpoints.

“Since we dont make phones, GENBAND doesnt have a hidden hardware agenda and our customers can always leverage … SIP endpoints alongside our WebRTC client, without sacrificing experience or paying hidden licensing fees,” said BG Kumar, president of GENBANDs Multimedia Business Unit.

Speaking of phones, Smart Office 2.0 lets companies still relying on Nortel hardware think the CS1000 system use those platforms. (Recall that GENBAND bought Nortel’s carrier VoIP unit in 2010.) In fact, said Carl Baptiste, senior vice president of enterprise solutions at GENBAND, Nortel opportunities should prove a faster sell for channel partners. Greenfield Smart Office 2.0 deployments tend to take nine months or more, but sales and installations among legacy Nortel users are expected to go much quicker because organizations will get access to next-generation capabilities without having to replace infrastructure.

Regardless of the vendor environment because Smart Office 2.0 works with multiple suppliers’ equipment, including that of Cisco, Avaya and Microsoft Lync “there’s no reason to throw out an old system,” Baptiste said. “This is not a rip-and-replace.” As long as the environment is SIP-enabled, Smart Office 2.0 works.

And when it comes to licensing, GENBAND has made Smart Office 2.0 licenses network-based, rather than location-based. That way there are no stranded assets, Baptiste said.

Channel partners may private-label Smart Office 2.0. In addition, GENBAND is beefing up its channel support; it now employs three channel managers: two for its largest VARs and one for the remaining smaller ones. GENBAND also is pursuing its distributor strategy.

Keep in mind that WebRTC still faces some challenges. For example, the IETF standards body has yet to decide on codecs; WebRTC may not work with all endpoints; and two key browser developers, Apple and Microsoft, have not said whether they will support WebRTC.

Nonetheless, GENBAND is plowing ahead.

“We hope to make a splash,” said Baptiste. “We think we’re going to raise some eyebrows.”


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