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Optical/IP

SpectraLink's Soft Landing

WiFi phone maven SpectraLink Corp. has developed software that it says enables WiFi-to-cellular convergence and may allow the company to go beyond its traditional vertical niches and break into the "mainstream enterprise" market.

The Boulder, Colo.-based company met with Unstrung in New York today to introduce its new NetLink Softphone application, which will be available for customers later this quarter. The firm's VP of marketing, Ben Guderian, claims that the code is something of a breakthrough because it will allow users to squeeze more life out of their old PBXes.

"The difference between this and other softphones is that users don't need to upgrade their traditional TDM PBXes," says Guderian.

This is because SpectraLink is using gateway software that bolts on the front of say, an old Nortel Networks Ltd. box combined with thin client software for Windows Mobile to allow users to switch between cellular and WiFi networks rather than basing its system around an IP-PBX. Guderian had the demo application running on a Cingular Wireless 8158 wireless PDA. The firm plans for the production client to run on "high-end WiFi-enabled Symbol PDAs." (See

"We're doing this specifically because we have big retail customers asking for this," says Guderian. The company can -- and will -- apply the same thin client model to IP-based systems and other applications later in the year though.

"There will be some interesting releases from us," he promises.

It is in SpectraLink's interests to try and stay ahead of the enterprise WiFi and FMC VOIP curve as it is shaping up to be a busy -- and bruising -- sector this year. The company already competes with the biggest player in the enterprise WiFi handset market -- Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) -- through selling its own products and OEM phones for Avaya Inc. , Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Nortel.

"Its pretty much us and Cisco that dominate," says Guderian. "We're in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 percent market share."

While the new software brings SpectraLink into competition with FMC startups such as DiVitas Networks Inc. and the mysterious new entrant, Agito. Guderian hinted, however, that SpectraLink may be able to work with Agito, which is an early-stage startup has been started by ex-Cisco people. "We should talk to them," he noted.

SpectraLink is also eager to note that its core WiFi-only handset market is still in rude health despite Unstrung's dire predictions. (See Five Technologies That Won't Survive 2007.)

"There's still a pretty significant market out there that uses WiFi-only phones and will do for the foreseeable future," Guderian says, particularly in the healthcare and retail market.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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