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10 best product announcements at Enterprise Connect 2015

Here are the best products I saw at Enterprise Connect last week.

The 25th VoiceCon/Enterprise Connect was held last week under the bio-dome known as the Gaylord Palms in Orlando. The show provides an opportunity for buyers interested in the broad category known as Unified Communications to come and learn about the market, seek out new vendors, and boldly go where no UC deployment has gone before.

The show has also become a launching pad for startups and for existing vendors to announce new products. As an analyst, I attend the show every year looking for products that stand out. Here are the products that caught my eye and were worth calling out. Disclaimer: these products are listed in alphabetic order to avoid any kind of perceived ranking.

8x8 Virtual Office Analytics

There are many UCaaS providers available to buyers today, and each one is looking to one up the other with a broader range of services. 8x8 introduced a suite of cloud-based analytic reporting tools to help its customers better understand calling patterns and usage trends. The tool also shows end-to-end call quality and compliance with service-level agreements. Virtual Office Analytics should increase the stickiness of 8x8's services as it brings visibility into the cloud, something many IT managers have been clamoring for. 8x8 was one of the finalists for Enterprise Connect Best of Show.

Acano Open

Always a bridesmaid but never a bride. This is the second year that Acano was up for Best of Enterprise Connect and the second year it had to settle for being just a finalist. The 2015 entry, Open, allows non-Lync users to join Outlook-scheduled Lync meetings. The solution allows Lync users to send Lync invites to anyone using a standards-based video solution such as SIP or H.323 and then join the meeting in a WebRTC session. Acano Open enables Lync users to easily collaborate with non-Lync users via video, web, and audio with a high-quality user experience.  

Altocloud Predictive Communications

Altocloud used Enterprise Connect 2015 to come out of stealth mode and show off its wares. The company monitors activity on websites, mobile applications, and other modes of communications, and analyzes that information to understand customer behavior. The solution then suggests whether the company should interact via phone call, video, mobile coupon or live chat and has the agent armed with the necessary information to optimize communications. Want to understand what your organization's next move should be with respect to customers? Altocloud can tell you.

Avaya Powered Contact Center from the Google Cloud

Last December, Avaya and Google announced a partnership through which Avaya contact center agent software could run on Chromebooks. At Enterprise Connect, Avaya announced that its contact center solution is now available from the Google cloud. The new service, Customer Engagement On Avaya Powered by Google Cloud Platform, brings contact center capabilities to the midmarket and below. Any customer with a Chromebook and web access can have an on-demand contact center. This is a win-win as it enables Avaya to leverage the ubiquity of Google and gives Google a market-leading contact center solution.

Cisco Spark and Unify Circuit

Last year both Cisco and Unify unveiled new collaboration solutions. Cisco's is centered on the concept of a virtual room and Unify's around conversations. While the approach is slightly different, both solutions are trying to change the way people collaborate through a social medium versus email. At the show, both vendors announced upgrades to their products and gave some proof points on the effectiveness of the solution. The thesis is that email is an over-used tool that bogs down workers more than it helps them. I won't disagree with the premise, but both Spark and Circuit do take some getting used to. It will be interesting to see how this product category, which includes startups Slack and Biba, evolves over the next year. Unify's Circuit product was another Best of Show finalist.

Polycom RoundTable 100

No UC vendor has a better relationship with Lync (soon to be Skype for Business) group at Microsoft than Polycom. The new RoundTable 100 extends the relationship to small businesses by delivering an easy-to-deploy, affordable solution for huddle rooms and small businesses. Like most Polycom products, the RoundTable 100 natively integrates with Skype for Business and Lync 2013 and takes just minutes to set up. Additionally, the product is easy to procure as it will be made available as an online purchase through the Microsoft store. Now any small business, or branch office of a large business, can have a high-quality video and audio solution in a huddle room or small conference room. 

SMART Technologies' Kapp

The concept of the smart board, or digital dry erase board, certainly isn't new. However, these products, such as SMART's Kapp, aren't your father's digital boards. In fact, they've evolved so much over the past few years that these aren't even your older brother's boards. Users who download the mobile application will automatically capture what's printed on the board in real time. No more taking pictures of white boards or having to decide between paying attention or taking notes, as Kapp does it for you. SMART had a 42-inch version of Kapp and unveiled an 84-inch one at the show. The digital capture board should be a core component of every collaboration room today.

Sprint Workplace as a Service (WPaaS)

WPaaS is the most comprehensive managed service I have seen to date. Unlike traditional managed services that focus on a single technology area (managed VoIP, mobility, network services, etc.), Sprint's WPaaS is comprised of all of the technology and services required to run a business, including WAN connectivity, Wi-Fi, voice, SIP trunks, collaboration, and mobile devices. Additionally, Sprint tosses in all of the end user training, help desk support, and multi-carrier support to reduce the support burden on IT. Sprint won "Best of Enterprise Connect" for the WPaaS offering. For a more detailed look, check out my blog post at from the event.

VOSS Industry Solutions Edition of VOSS-4-UC

There is arguably no vendor that has advanced UC management more than VOSS has over the past five years. The new solution pre-configures the VOSS software to specific industry verticals, cutting down on tuning and optimization time. VOSS-4-UC Industry Solutions address a number of verticals, including retail, finance, healthcare, and education. Out-of-the-box deployment is certainly what most users want today but, as they say, one size does not fit all. VOSS Industry Solutions ensure that VOSS-based UC management gets as close to out-of-the-box as possible.

Vidyo Smart Glasses

Another Best of Show finalist, Vidyo's product announcement was, as Meghan Trainor would say, "all about the glass, no desktop." This was easily the announcement with the most sizzle to it given the high interest in smart glasses today. The solution allows wearers of smart glasses to have totally hands-free video communications. This can be useful in industries such as medical, manufacturing, transportation, or any vertical where workers need to communicate and access data but need to utilize their hands.

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