Best Products: Convergence finalists

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Aastra Technologies' VentureIP all-in-one, peer-to-peer, IP-based phone system earned its Best of the Tests stripes in a stand-alone test conducted by Test Alliance partner Miercom. VentureIP offers a full spectrum of enterprise telephony features, serves up reliable service and good call quality and has an impressive autoconfiguration capability. Because the product does not use an expensive central PBX or server, small-to-midsize enterprise deployments could realize a significant savings over alternatives.

Avaya's Modular Messaging System and Unified Communications Center and Siemens Communications' HiPath Xpressions made this year's convergence short list based on the outcome of our VoIP-based unified messaging Clear Choice Test. In this test, Miercom engineers examined what major VoIP vendors offered up the best PBX-based software providing efficient, consolidated, hands-free access to voice mail and e-mail via any phone device, situated anywhere. Avaya topped the competition because of its well-done Web interface to unified e-mail and voice mail, superior voice-recognition interface, and outstanding text-to-speech accuracy and performance. Siemens placed a close second, as its major strengths are exceptional administrative access to the unified messaging environment, a very good Web interface to unified e-mail and voice mail, and tailored voice-recognition options.

The seven remaining finalists in this category earned exceptionally high scores in the crowded Web-conferencing field. We tested these products on the Internet across three continents. Raindance Communications' Raindance Meeting Edition demonstrated very high availability and reliability, served up high-quality video and offered well-integrated public switched telephone network audio. WebEx Communications' Meeting Center was extremely easy to learn and use, proved to be very well integrated with Microsoft Office applications as well as Microsoft services (including MSN), was highly responsive and offers excellent multilingual support. WebDemo Hosted, from Inter-Tel division Linktivity, received a top score because of its complete Office and browser integration for scheduled and ad hoc meetings, the ability to change screen-color depth during presentation and its multilingual support. Convoq's ASAP Pro 2.0 was a strong finisher, because getting into a meeting using this service is very easy and flexible. It has excellent support for media-sharing and collaboration, and has ubiquitous use of Flash. Elluminate's Elluminate Live! Team Edition picks up kudos for its equal application-sharing support across Windows, Macintosh and Linux and well-supported recording and playback capabilities. Centra 7 eMeeting from Centra Software (acquired Feb. 1 by Saba) provides good scheduling/invite integration with Outlook, e-mail and instant messaging; has highly developed recording feature and offers a complete meeting management tool palette, including an excellent crowd management system. Santa Cruz Networks' VidiTel gets a wave for providing high-quality video and full-duplex audio, and offering a highly integrated presence and IM-enabled directory that lets users readily see each other.

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