Cisco, Citrix expand click-to-call

Citrix has teamed up with Cisco to let users easily call phone numbers that appear in any application they're working in.

With Citrix Presentation Server, enterprises can run applications centrally and have employees simply work with an image of the application on each client device. Through integration with Cisco's CallManager VoIP system, the companies have been offering a click-to-call feature for a limited number of applications. After rolling a mouse over any phone number that appears in an application, users see a pop-up menu and can click on the option "Call" to dial the number on a Cisco phone.

Starting in mid-January, the companies will make that feature work any application deployed via Presentation Server. Along with expanding the capability, they plan to add other communication functions, including e-mail, instant messaging and Web conferencing, to the drop-down list, said Barry Phillips, senior director of product marketing at Citrix.

VoIP turns phone calls into one more application running over the same network that carries data, so integrating voice and other communications into applications is a major thrust in the use of the technology. The convergence of voice and data originally was promoted as a way to save money and simplify administration. Now Cisco and Citrix, along with other vendors, are downplaying the economic argument in favor of new ease-of-use features for users.

Presentation Server is designed to slash client systems management and give IT managers more control over enterprise applications. It runs the applications on a central server that registers keystrokes and mouse clicks from client devices and sends an image of the running application to the user's screen.

The City of Winter Park, Fla., doesn't run applications on Presentation Server but uses other Citrix software to link its Cisco VoIP phone system with Active Directory and enable additional features. The combination has worked well, delivering capabilities including a one-click dialing feature that works in Microsoft's Internet Explorer, said Parsram Rajaram, a senior systems analyst for the city.

Cisco and other vendors also are working on putting voice-calling functions in standard applications that reside on clients.

"Over time, we're going to expect this as a core functionality of our applications," said Elizabeth Herrell, an analyst at Forrester Research. It's part of the move toward unified communications, which will bring together different forms of communication along with presence technology that detects how a person should be reached at a given time, she said.

The click-to-call feature will be part of the Application Gateway and Citrix Voice Application Suite. Priced at $50 per user for a perpetual license, the suite includes such other features as tools for handling voice mail through the phone's display and paging employees and groups through phone speakers. It runs on Cisco's Application Gateway, which costs $5,000. The offering is part of Cisco's standard catalog and any Cisco reseller can offer it, the companies said.

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