Interop '07: Cisco layers push-to-talk on top of VoIP

Summary:While a bunch of the solutions I've spotted on the Interop show floor so far have come from small innovative companies, Cisco is here demonstrating that even the big-boys can come up with a cool idea or two. Earlier today, Cisco CEO John Chambers took the stage for the show's opening keynote.

While a bunch of the solutions I've spotted on the Interop show floor so far have come from small innovative companies, Cisco is here demonstrating that even the big-boys can come up with a cool idea or two. Earlier today, Cisco CEO John Chambers took the stage for the show's opening keynote. Over on the Between the Lines blog, my colleague Dan Farber has all the deets (and pictures) on why Cisco is all about enabling frictionless collaboration through invisible infrastructure. Later at Cisco's booth (front and center to the entrance of Interop), I caught up with Cisco's vice president for Mobility Solutions Alan Cohen who gave me a small taste of how Cisco is living up to that promise in a new VoIP solution that that networking giant is targeting at retailers.

Referred to as Model 7921 (why can't they come up with a better name for these products?), Cisco is for the first time showing off a VoIP solution that supports Nextel-style push-to-talk. You've probably already seen customer service folks at retail outfits like Home Depot using VoIP phones to contact one another. But, every time I've seen these VoIP solutions in action, I've also noticed how the people using the phones have to actually dial a number. It may only be a two or three digit number (or it may be a speed dial), but it's a number that needs to be dialed nevertheless. If you've ever used a phone (like Nextel's) that's enabled for push to talk, then can't help but admit to the convenience of having your co-workers just a push button away. Now, with the 7921, retailers, warehouse operations, and other businesses of similar types can benefit from push to talk technology without having to pay expensive service charges to a wireless carrier.

In the video above, Cohen shows me the new 802.11 a/g-compliant VoIP solution as well as some technology that customers can use to make it work reliably in airspace that's crowded with other RF signals.

Topics: Unified Comms, Cisco

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David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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