Unified Communications Platform Adds Apple, Android Tablet Support

New version connects to other meeting rooms, adds videoconferencing features.

FuzeBox has just upgraded its Fuze Meeting unified collaboration platform so that it now runs on Apple iOS and Google Android tablet devices. The company is one of a number of unified communications providers that are taking different approaches to the task of enabling a variety of devices to interoperate with multiple platforms in this dynamic market for unified communications.

The Fuze Meeting app for iPads is now available in the App Store, while the version for Androids will be available in the Android Market soon.

Among the additions to this latest version of Fuze Meeting is the ability to connect to other telepresence meeting rooms, including those of Polycom, LifeSize, Tandberg (now part of Cisco), and Teliris. It also adds the ability to record meetings, use gesture-based touch-screen capabilities to zoom in and out of documents, and arrange the images of meeting participants. Fuze Meeting targets the expected wider use of tablet computers in the workplace, specifically for videoconferencing, said Jeff Cavins, FuzeBox’s CEO.

To demonstrate the new features of Fuze Meeting, FuzeBox lent this reporter an iPad preloaded with the Fuze Meeting application. The service operates completely in the cloud, which makes it possible for participants and meeting content–such as video or documents–to be continuously in sync during a meeting.

“We’re always in sync, no matter where we are anywhere on the planet, no matter what device we’re on, and no matter what network we’re on,” Cavins said.

The user interface features a number of pull-down menus for different functions. One menu identifies meeting participants and allows the host to designate others as participants or annotators, who can mark up content. The host can also designate someone else as host if he or she needs to leave early.

Also new is a feature that creates the equivalent of a laser pointer so a user can point to specific sections of a document or image during a discussion.

Yet another pull-down menu lets a host select content to display during the meeting. Cavins selected a TV ad for the iPad, and when the narrator (actor Peter Coyote) said, “You can still go to meetings,” the Fuze Meeting app was shown.

In one way or another, multiple unified communications platform vendors accommodate portable devices along with desktop and room-based telepresence systems. Polycom, for instance, touts its RealPresence Mobile capability, which allows participants to join a meeting from a tablet. Cisco Systems, which began with its high-end TelePresence suites, each costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, recently unveiled new TelePresence technology in a demonstration that also included participants joining on a Polycom system. Another provider, Blue Jeans Network, delivers a cloud-based videoconferencing service where people can join from room systems, desktops, smartphones, or via Skype.

But FuzeBox’s Cavins says much of the unified communications landscape remains disconnected and broken up into five main areas: First, there are telepresence system vendors such as LifeSize and Polycom, which are themselves a $3.8 billion market, he said, citing industry forecasts. Second, conferencing vendors such as Verizon, Vodafone, and British Telecom are a $29 billion market. Third, document collaboration tools such as DropBox and Box.net add another $4 billion. Fourth, Web conferencing services such as GoToMeeting and Cisco’s WebEx are worth another $2.85 billion. Cavins added a fifth category: business social media tools like Jive, Yammer, and Chatter, though he didn’t have market size numbers for them.

“This ecosystem is described as unified communications … when in fact they are not unified at all,” Cavins said. “I can’t take a DropBox file and ship it over to Box.net. I can’t take a Yammer chat session and have it interoperate with a Jive chat session.”

“What we decided to build was a true UC product,” he said, but he added that FuzeBox doesn’t use the term UC to promote Fuze Meeting. “But our product blends all of these five industries into one beautiful and simple interface.”

Informationweek

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