BroadSoft is pitching a forthcoming extension to its unified communications (UC) offering as a way for service providers to increase the prices they charge enterprise users and fend off the communications challenge coming from IT players such as Microsoft.
The enhanced UC offering would support similar functionality to services such as Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Skype for Business, which has become a growing worry for traditional service providers.
"In effect, Microsoft will become a carrier itself in the next 12 months -- they've already announced that capability with Azure Cloud in North America and we're expecting the same to happen in Europe," says Mike Wilkinson, the vice president of market offers at BroadSoft Inc. . "We're giving service providers the tools they need to manage the competitive threat that's coming from the likes of Microsoft."
That's a proposition that should have broad appeal for the telecom operators, which are facing up to the stark fact that almost every part of their services portfolio is under intense competitive threat from Web services challengers.
BroadSoft is developing the service through an initiative it calls Project Tempo, but the offer will build on its current UC-One offering to include functions such as support for third-party cloud applications and what the company describes as a "contextual intelligence" engine. (See BroadSoft Unveils Its Project Tempo.)
That appears to be the crown jewel in the upgrade because it would allow an enterprise user to pull together information about a third party calling the organization based on previous interactions.
By gathering data from various applications, the technology would allow a receptionist at a dental practice -- for instance -- to view information about a patient calling to make an appointment, including details of previous visits and dental history. "Pretty much no one else is working on something like that," says Wilkinson.
Based on open-source technology, the new service will also be integrated with a variety of third-party applications, including services from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Microsoft and Concur Technologies -- which offers cloud-based expense-management services and is now owned by Germany's SAP AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: SAP)-- and provide "shortcuts" for enterprise users.
"As a line manager you may have a number of Concur expense reports coming through in emails and then you have to sign in with Concur and authorize them," says Wilkinson. "We will shortcut all that so the Concur notification will pop up for approval as an instant-messaging screen."
The other major feature described by Wilkinson is an enterprise-messaging tool, allowing users to share documents and co-ordinate activities. "It effectively streamlines the development of various different projects -- you are keeping it all in one place within a messaging room, which is corralling information around a project," he says.
BroadSoft is showing off the new features at its annual global users' conference this week in Phoenix and the reaction from the 1,000 attendees -- most of whom are from service providers -- has already been "very strong," claims Wilkinson.
Given the looming threat from over-the-top players, that is perhaps unsurprising, but service providers could even see the new UC features as a means of boosting average revenues per user.
"Today, UC commands something like a 25% price premium over traditional telephony hosted in the cloud and we would expect with this you can command a bit more in terms of price premiums for the more advanced functions," says Wilkinson.
BroadSoft insists it is a much bigger player than other UC players, such as Mitel Networks Corp. , and its ultimate goal will be to upsell the enhanced offering to its existing customers.
"We work with about 700 service providers worldwide and had the largest installed base of UC lines worldwide -- more than 12 million at the end of September," boasts Wilkinson. "Mitel has got about 1.6 million and most others would be struggling to get past 1 million, so we have a very large base."
The immediate plan is to launch a beta offering, under the brand of UC-One Hub, in the first quarter of 2016 with a number of operator partners.
"We will then refine down the main cloud apps they want integrated and do fine tuning of contextual intelligence around specific enterprise apps," says Wilkinson. "Customers are looking at what they build into their services in 2016 and 2017."
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading