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Siemens is hoping to make the idea of implementing unified communications easier for customers to swallow with a host of enhancements to its OpenScape Xpressions and UC Application products.

Long a player in telecommunications products and services, the company is hoping to parlay its breadth and depth of experience to quell the fear and uncertainty customers have about implementing unified communications, said Kathy Heilmann, director of large enterprise solutions marketing at Siemens.

“When speaking with customers, we’ve found there are a number of barriers to adopting unified communications, and principal among them is the complexity they believe exists. Our new offerings are designed to remove those complexities,” she said.

The OpenScape Xpressions and OpenScape UC Application Enterprise Edition are designed for large enterprise customers who don’t currently have unified communications. Xpressions is an enhancement to what was previously a unified messaging application, and is sold as a standalone software solution that runs over Siemens’ HiPath or any other communications platform from any vendor.

“It is designed for customers who don’t want to do a lot of integration but want to get the 80 percent of benefits with only 20 percent of the work,” Heilmann said.

As a unified messaging product, Xpressions included unified messaging, voice messaging and computer telephony integration (CTI) capabilities. Its current iteration, however, also includes presence, instant messaging, web conferencing and audio conferencing – “all the standard unified communications offerings, Heilmann said.

OpenScape UC Application Enterprise Edition, meanwhile, now includes instant messaging via popular IM clients or via the Openfire open source client, Netviewer web conferencing and a mobile client for Apple’s iPhone, to complement its mobile clients for Windows Mobile and RIM phones.

Unified communications is definitely an area to watch in 2009. According to Gartner, an astounding 95 percent of enterprises will integrate their voice and data services by 2010. And in a study released last August by Aberdeen, 50 percent of companies surveyed said they are or will be evaluating unified communications within 18 months.

And it’s a market that is ripe for vendors who can position unified communications correctly. “We and other vendors haven’t addressed unified communications very well up to now,” Heilmann said. “Packaged unified communications represents where the market is moving today.”

Both products are currently available through the channel. Siemens also is bundling the OpenScape UC Application Enterprise Edition with its OpenScape Voice Application and selling it direct as a bundle. Heilmann expects bundled pricing to be available to the channel at a later date, but could not confirm when.

Also expected to be available to the channel at a later date is the OpenScale Software Assurance program, a maintenance subscription service for software upgrades large and small during a contract period, Heilmann said. “It saves money and helps make expenditures predictable. But it’s not ready for the channel yet,” she said.