A forthcoming release of Cisco's software for its IP phones will include support for Unicode, the standard that allows text in virtually any alphabet or character set to be rendered on a display.
Cisco will introduce the new capability at a developer conference in May this year.
The new feature could allow developers to tap into a burgeoning market for IP telephony in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in China, said Alistair Woodman, director of marketing for Cisco's Voice Technology Centre.
IP phones plug into a packet network that treats voice calls as data, saving companies the cost of building and maintaining separate voice and data networks. IP phones also can save residential customers money by letting them use a carrier's data network.
Packet-based phone networks also can give developers more flexibility to build new voice and data services, vendors say.
New services could feature an interface to access special services and information tailored to a specific company or group of customers.
The ability to display text in a variety of character sets could make value-added services on IP phones more useful to many people, according to an executive of a company that develops IP telephony services software for carriers.
Demand for multiple character sets is growing in Europe, where companies are more likely to employ speakers of different languages. For example, a native Swedish speaker may work in France. With support for special Swedish characters, it would be easier for that employee to look up the name of a Swedish colleague.
Cisco's core software for its IP phones will also support XML, allowing developers to provide virtually any kind of content to the phone on a user's desk.