Cisco enhances enterprise IP message system

Cisco has updated three of its product lines as part of the company's push to make phone functions part of a unified enterprise...

Cisco has updated three of its product lines as part of the company's push to make phone functions part of a unified enterprise IP (Internet Protocol) network for voice, data and video.

The newly unveiled Unity Bridge 2.0 will allow enterprises to extend advanced features of existing Avaya Octel message systems to the Cisco Systems Unity voice-message and unified-messaging software.

With Cisco Unity Bridge 2.0, users can find users by name instead of number and use shortcuts to reply to a message in a way that existing Octel messaging systems understand. Cisco plans to add interoperability with other competing messaging systems in the future.

Cisco's Unity software itself has been updated to version 3.1. The latest version of Unity is designed to make sure that departments that start using PCs or IP phones in place of conventional phones are not left isolated in a legacy network that uses a variety of other voicemail systems. Enterprises are gradually migrating to IP telephony but want to retain interoperability with existing systems as they do.

Cisco has also updated its automated voice response software in Cisco Customer Response Solutions (CRS) 3.0. The latest version adds speech recognition to enable callers to navigate a voice menu that runs on CRS by speaking to an automated operator instead of by using the telephone keypad, Hank Lambert, director of product marketing for Cisco's enterprise voice and video group, said.

Cisco's CRS call-centre software has been enhanced with features such as new call-routing options and text-to-speech capability as well as the voice-recognition feature. For example, callers who let the call centre software know they need an operator with certain skills, such as language skills, can have their calls automatically forwarded to someone whose skills match the requirements. That saves the cost of time spent by the initial operator having to transfer the call, as well as preventing annoyance among callers, Lambert said.

Text-to-speech capability offers the possibility that callers to an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) line could have Web-page text read to them without a human operator, Lambert said.

Cisco has also rolled out IP SoftPhone 1.3, an upgrade to the company's PC-based telephony software, which now lets employees use a phone handset with a USB connection to a PC instead of using a headset. The user interface for SoftPhone has also been improved and can now display Korean and Simplified Chinese characters.

The IP hardware lineup has also been expanded. Among the new offerings is a new version of Cisco's MCS (Media Convergence Server) line designed for sites with 200 or fewer employees. The MCS 7815-1000, which runs the Cisco CallManager software for signalling and call setup on IP calls, is available now with CallManager for $7,995. The company has also boosted performance on its platforms for larger enterprises, introducing the MCS 7825-1133 and MCS 7835-1266, priced from $11,995 and $18,995, respectively.

Unity Bridge 2.0 software, an option with Cisco Unity 3.1, is available now for $7,000. IP SoftPhone 1.3 is also available now from $105 or as a free upgrade to existing IP SoftPhone versions. CRS 3.0 is scheduled to become available in the third quarter and consists of three elements: IP IVR, priced at $4,995 for software and five IPR ports; IP ICD (Integrated Call Distribution), $4,995 for 10 agent licences; and IP QM (Queue Manager), also starting at $4,995.

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