Cisco is aiming to bring together the of worlds of voice, data, video and mobile communications in a new architecture called the Cisco Unified Communications system.
The architecture is based around three new products and over thirty new versions of existing products.
A key part of the architecture is the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, which is a new product for combining different communications media. Unlike previous Cisco Products in this area, the Communicator is available in two versions, one based on Microsoft Communicator and the other based on Linux.
It uses a graphical interface and "dynamic presence" information that lets staff search existing internal directories to locate contacts. With the integration of "click to call" features, using voice and video, staff can exchange ideas face-to-face.
In short, the architecture should allow staff to contact each other by voice, data, video or mobile, as appropriate. It is based on Cisco's Service-Oriented Network Architecture (SONA) announced in December 2005.
"IP telephony used to be about cost," said Tim Stone, Cisco's European Marketing manager for Unified Communications. "Now it is much more about simplification and virtualisation."
Another key product in the new line-up is the Cisco Unified Presence Server. This collects information about a user's status, such as whether or not they are using a telephone, personal computer or video terminal at a particular time with the aim of helping people to use their time more efficiently.
It aggregates presence information from the network and from third-party devices using SIP and SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions and then publishes that information for use by applications.
According to Charles Giancarlo, chief development officer for Cisco, the new architecture is "the first true second-generation IP communications system providing... a rich communications environment that seamlessly integrates voice, video and data collaboration in one system."