Cisco joins video interoperability group

Also unveils collaboration enhancements in Unified Communications Release 9.0

Putting action behind its words, Cisco this week joined the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC), a group of vendor and service providers endorsing interoperability between multivendor video conferencing and collaboration systems. Cisco joined the organization as a board member.

Cisco has been very vocal about video interoperability of late. It's appealing the European Union's approval of Microsoft's acquisition of Skype until Microsoft pledges interoperability with other vendors' video gear, and shows some proof points behind it.

Cisco had to do the same when it acquired Tandberg in 2009, surrendering the Telepresence Interoperability Protocol to the industry at large as a condition for closing on the Tandberg buy.

Microsoft is also a member of OVCC.

Joining Cisco as a board member of OVCC this week is AVI-SPL, an installer of video collaboration systems and provider of managed conferencing services. Canadian telecom giant TELUS also joined OVCC, bringing the group's membership to 27 eight months after its launch.

OVCC members are developing technical and commercial interoperability specifications based on industry standards, best practices and business approaches. These specification aim to define interconnection, addressing, signaling, interoperability and service coordination among myriad multivendor video systems, from high definition and standard definition telepresence and room-based systems, to desktop clients and mobile devices.

The first OVCC services are scheduled to launch later this year.

Separately, Cisco this week also rolled out Release 9.0 of its Unified Communications platform, which broadens device and location access support for Cisco collaboration tools.

A new feature called Extend and Connect works with Cisco Jabber and is designed to bring any third-party phone - including those at hotels, airports, convention centers, offshore oil rigs or cruise ships - into the Cisco UC environment. Telecommuters and business travelers input the phone number of their preferred voice device into a Jabber client running on their Windows PC, and Cisco's Unified Communications Manager (UCM) routes all voice traffic to that phone -- as long as the phone is connected to a telephone line. Extend and Connect is intended to enable that third-party phone to function as a Cisco IP phone.

Users of mobile phones, meanwhile, have access to more desk-phone-like features with Release 9.0 without the need of a smartphone, a data plan, or a mobile client installed on the phone. Cisco says features such as unified inbox, message waiting, callback, conferencing and direct-extension dialing are now available through a new interface that ties UCM with the user's mobile service provider.

For video, Release 9.0 includes improved bandwidth management via a built-in implementation of Call Admission Control, which manages traffic to help optimize. It also supports Cisco's recently announced TelePresence TX9000 endpoint. Release 9.0 also allows users to reach any endpoint in the system by dialing a contact's email address in lieu of a traditional phone number.

Release 9.0 also include features to help businesses implement and manage contact centers. Packaged Contact Center Enterprise provides a pre-engineered, packaged deployment model of Cisco's enterprise contact center software designed for easier implementation. Precision Routing for Unified Contact Center Enterprise enables contact centers to drive call-routing decisions that better match customer needs with agent attributes and competencies. And Release 9.0  adds historical reporting to Cisco Unified Contact Center Express, as well as Web chat and agent skill management from a supervisor's mobile device.

Release 9.0 also supports native call queuing, so in-bound callers and groups of callers can be automatically put on hold and routed into a queue; One Button to Record, allowing users to start or stop call recording directly from an endpoint; user-centric licensing based on four distinct types of workers: deskless workers, desk-bound workers, occasionally mobile workers and road warriors; and Unified Workspace Licensing Premium Edition, which adds Cisco Jabber Mobile to the collaboration package.

Release 9.0 is targeted for third quarter availability. Extend and Connect requires both Release 9.0 as well as Cisco Jabber 9.1.  Cisco Jabber 9.1 is scheduled to be available in the fourth quarter.

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