California-based ShoreTel Inc. made major unified Relevant Products/Services communications strides in March. The company, which bills its business Relevant Products/Services communication solutions as "brilliantly simple," drove its work with tech giants IBM and Apple to the next level with several new announcements.

The first bit of news involves ShoreTel's roll out of its new ShoreTel Communicator for IBM Sametime, already in use at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. The collaboration and unified communications solution combines the power of ShoreTel's IP telephony and unified messaging with the real-time Relevant Products/Services social capabilities of IBM Sametime.

Practically speaking, the integration of ShoreTel Communicator into both Sametime and IBM Lotus Notes means users can manage all of their collaboration in a familiar application interface. It also means one-click convenience for instant messaging, e-mail, and telephony interactions, which are initiated from the contact list.

Ken Landoline, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, told us that integration with popular collaboration and desktop platforms such as Sametime and IBM Lotus Notes is essential for the ultimate success of any unified communications telephony platform. Because of that, it was critical that ShoreTel incorporate interfaces to those products into its enterprise Relevant Products/Services UC system.

"Since many enterprises with already implemented IM and collaboration platforms will be looking for UC telephony platforms that can accommodate their current embedded systems," he added, "the ShoreTel Communicator enhancements in this area will ensure that ShoreTel's systems will meet their requirements."

ShoreTel-IBM in the Field

ShoreTel Communicator for Sametime includes visual voice mail and remote call control, all integrated with a user's calendar and contacts. Users can show their online status as busy while making a call from the Sametime application with one click. There's also an option to "camp on" when a colleague is on the phone or has an unavailable presence, letting the system notify you when the person becomes available.

Roxanne Reynolds-Lair, chief information officer at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, said that "FIDM is a place where creativity and careers merge. We're hands-on and industry focused. Our students, faculty and staff all live and breathe within collaborative projects.

"When anyone contacts us, we pride ourselves on ensuring that there is always a live person to interact with, and our entire front office has embraced the simplicity of ShoreTel Communicator for Sametime as a smooth way to ensure continued collaboration -- no matter who we're communicating with," she said.

Driving BYOD

The company has also just rolled out its ShoreTel Mobility 6 release and ShoreTel Conferencing, both optimized for turning the Apple iPad into a business communications tool, enabling integrated collaboration capabilities, increased accessibility and improved communications, regardless of the user's location.

ShoreTel Mobility 6 delivers a native iPad user interface that makes multi-modal communications possible on the tablet. Users place and receive calls with their business persona, exchange instant messages, listen to voice mail messages and create multi-party calls by dragging names from enterprise directories together with a swipe of a finger.

ShoreTel Conferencing for iOS extends the communications experience with application collaboration capabilities. Users can share presentations controlled by their iPad or iPhone with remote participants or view shared desktops of their colleagues' PCs and Macs.

"We've seen widespread endorsement of BYOD initiatives across the board," said Michael Finneran, principal at dBrn Associates. "And based on our latest research, Apple devices appear to be coming into the enterprise at almost twice the rate of Android. ShoreTel's focus for making mobile Relevant Products/Services applications easy to use could lead to higher user adoption."