This week fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) vendor DiVitas Networks added robust mobile unified communications features to its handset client and added scalability by changing its appliance-based back-end technology into a software-based server.
While its competitor Agito Networks has focused on developing a transparent client that is invisible to users, DiVitas is continuing on the path of a rich-featured client with DiVitas 2.0. The old version was a text-based interface that had standard PBX capabilities. The new version of the client software will feature an icon-centric interface with several unified communications functions: basic fixed office line, visual voicemail, instant messaging, presence and contact management.
"I think what DiVitas is offering is pretty cool," said Zeus Kerravala, vice president for Yankee Group Research Inc. "Unified communications, the way is was sold as a desktop application, has a lot of value. But I've always felt that mobile UC has a lot more value. When you're mobile, the ability to move around in different mediums, to be able to see presence information and use it to contact somebody is much more valuable," he said. "Mobile UC has much more bang for the buck. That's where the growth in this market is going to come from. It's probably the best mobile UC offering on the market today. I would expect Research in Motion, Blackberry, will have a very strong offering down the road, too."
"DiVitas made the strategic decision to make this client visible to users and to connect it back to a server and allow enterprises to control the client," said Paul DeBeasi, senior analyst with the Burton Group.. "I think in the near term, having this client will give enterprises more control over what their users see. It's a positive thing for DiVitas."
DiVitas has also updated its server, changing it from an appliance to a software-only technology that can run on Dell and HP servers. Vivek Khuller, president and CEO of DiVitas, said his company has worked hard to create a simple to use Web-based installation wizard for configuring the server and provisioning handsets over the air.
"We've made this extremely easy and flexible for our customers," Khuller said. "The software-based solution really streamlines our operations and allows us to scale the product in a much quicker way than would have been possible before."
Indeed, the original DiVitas clients scaled up to 200 users. The new servers scale to 5,000 users.
The release of DiVitas 2.0, coupled with competitor Agito's 2.0 release of its RoamAnywhere Mobility Router appliance early this month, are signs of a maturing fixed-mobile convergence market, DeBeasi said.
While Agito has focused on building out the functionality of its client, the company has focused on other enterprise pain points, such as security.
"Agito introduced the ability to have a secure voice connection that you can bring on your dual-mode phone," DeBeasi said. "You can talk over your home wireless LAN. They embedded a VPN client under the covers. It's completely transparent. Users don't know it's happening, but IT guys are going to love it."
DeBeasi said Agito also added "dual personalities." This feature allows users to program both a personal and professional profile into the phone system. When users make or receive calls, the outgoing caller ID information and the incoming voicemail will match the relationship the user has with the client. Friends and family will interact with the cell phone's features while business contacts will experience the company's PBX features.
"It's a slowly maturing market," DeBeasi said. "A year ago, when these guys were doing 1.0, their bleeding edge first release, they didn't have much in the way of customers. Now they have broader sets of customers and better functionality in the phones."
DiVitas announced several new customers this month, including the Thirteenth Judicial District Court in Albuquerque, N.M., and the government of Bernalillo County, N.M. It also introduced a hosted version of its technology and announced regional provider Sawtel Inc. as a first partner in that initiative.
"We've had [DiVitas] install in May," said Greg Ireland, CEO of the Thirteenth Judicial Court. "Our staff attorneys have different offices in different buildings, and they are constantly traveling from building to building to hold … legal services clinics. If I put a desk phone in each office, that drives them crazy. They can't manage all those phones."
Ireland said the ability to make calls over the wireless LAN earned the court cost savings, but DiVitas' advanced features also drive other benefits. Hesaid the presence features of DiVitas are especially helpful to judges, who can set their status to say they're on the bench for a hearing or a trial so they can't receive calls.
"One of the things we're going to be experimenting with: Our judges get woken up often in the middle of the night because they're on call for signing search warrants. What has to happen is an officer has to print out the warrant and take it over to their house and get it signed. We're going to experiment with having them fax the warrant directly to the judge's phone, and the judge can just send that back to them saying it is approved."
"I think FMC is still in the early days," DeBeasi said. "There's been a lot of hype for several years. Enterprises are just looking for a simple, straightforward solution that at minimum integrates mobile phones into the enterprise voice system. These two releases show that there is much more maturity in the products, and we'll see if enterprises really start ponying up and spending the money."
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor