UC Update: Microsoft and Nortel

Nortel Networks and Microsoft Corp. clarified their joint unified communications endeavour at a customer event in New York last month. The companies described three new systems: UC Integrated Branch, an appliance for VoIP and unified communications at branch-sized offices, expected for the fourth quarter of 2007; a unified messaging platform combining Nortel’s enterprise IP-PBX and Microsoft’s Exchange Server for email, expected for the second quarter, and; a conferencing system marrying Nortel’s conferencing back end to Microsoft’s unified communications client, expected for the fourth quarter.

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Network Experts Wanted

More Canadian CIOs plan to hire IT professionals in Q1 2007 than previously, according to Robert Half Technology. Having interviewed 270 CIOs from companies with 100 or more employees, the IT human resources firm said 23% of people polled plan to add IT staff, a net 19% increase over the previous quarter. In-demand skills include Windows administration, database management and network administration.

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TalkSwitch Heads South

Ottawa IP equipment vendor TalkSwitch is making its way south of the border: in December the company announced a joint venture with San Jose service provider Covad Communications Group Inc. to bring an integrated VoIP/carriage system to US small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). Combining Covad’s ClearEdge Integrated Access and TalkSwitch’s 480vs IP phone system, the firms claim customers could save up to 40% compared to legacy phone systems. In November TalkSwitch unveiled two hybrid phone systems programmable for both IP and analog.

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Shaw Buys Cable Systems

Calgary carrier Shaw Communications Inc. said it would acquire BC cable systems owner Mascon Communications and its operations in Winfield, Lumby, Pender Island, Mayne Island, Galiano Island and Lillooet. According to Shaw president Peter Bissonnette, the new cable systems will complement the cable infrastructure Shaw already owns in Kelowna and the Gulf Islands.

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Bloom Off Skype

Previously unassailable, the nearly free VoIP platform Skype has come under fire from industry observers. Some provide negative assessments of how well eBay Inc. has integrated Skype functions into its online auction platform – eBay acquired Skype in 2005. Meanwhile, users complain that SkypeOut, which lets Skypers connect to the PSTN, offers spotty quality of service. In December Skype’s president Alex Kazim returned to a position at eBay. Better news: although some wondered if the venerable Skype Journal was off the air for good having gone incommunicado after mid-December, the prolific blog is back in action, blaming technical difficulties for the radio silence.

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SMBs ‘Get’ IT

Canadian small businesses increasingly take a "big business" approach to technology investments, according to a Cisco Systems Inc. study. The communications equipment provider said small companies make customer engagement a top IT priority these days, whereas in the past IT was simply an operational tool. According to Cisco, 75% of small companies use IT to automate, enhance or improve business processes, and 50% say technology helps them find new business prospects.

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Canucks Lag in IP

Canadian businesses lag their international counterparts in VoIP implementations, according to a study from AT&T Inc. and the Economist Intelligence Unit. While nearly half of companies around the globe have installed IP voice systems, just 37% of Canadians have done so. However, Canadians seem to have more sophisticated attitudes toward IP: 79% said the technology’s key benefit is better collaboration with customers and suppliers, whereas the global average was 70%. IP equipment sellers largely consider productivity improvement measures as more sophisticated than service-cost comparisons.

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Axia Launches Security Service

Calgary network provider Axia NetMedia Corp. says its new managed security service, AxiaSecure, essentially transforms the company’s security operations centre and team of security professionals into extensions of customers’ IT organizations. Announced last month, AxiaSecure provides network perimeter protection based on hardware from Cisco Systems Inc. and Fortinet Inc. According to a press release, this is the first Axia product to come from the firm’s experience protecting SuperNet, Alberta’s broadband backbone.

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GwaiiTel Launches

Residents of Haida Gwaii BC now have high-speed Web connections thanks to GwaiiTel and its Haida Gwaii Community Network, launched in November. The service rides on a radio link – the longest over-water Internet transmission in the world (see Telemanagement 240, November 1, 2006). Financial partners included the BC government, Telus Corp., and the Gwaii Trust. "We had to overcome many technical and business challenges, but the Gwaii Trust is very proud to have brought this essential infrastructure into our communities," said trust chairman Miles Richardson.

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Mobile Etiquette

Canadians opt for text messaging instead of voice conversations when speaking out loud would be impolite, according to a Fido-Léger study of wireless habits. Most of the 2,118 survey respondents said it’s more acceptable to use text messaging than talk on the phone in restaurants, on public transit, and in line at the grocery store.

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