Alcatel-Lucent lets iPads go from IM to voice and video without hanging up

The company hopes to make unified communications more popular among enterprises

Alcatel-Lucent's OpenTouch Conversation software will allow enterprise users to switch among different ways of communicating -- including instant messaging, voice calls and video conferencing -- without interrupting their conversations. The software will first be available on Apple's iPad, the company said on Monday.

The concept of integrating different ways of communicating is far from new, and is often called unified communications in the enterprise market. But products need to become much simpler for the sector to take off on a grander scale, according to Craig Walker, director of product marketing at Alcatel-Lucent's enterprise group.

That ease-of-use is what Alcatel-Lucent hopes it will achieve with OpenTouch Conversation.

On the iPad screen, a user can see a graphical timeline of recent, current and future conversations, pictures of their current key contacts and a "stage" where their current conversations takes place, according to Alcatel-Lucent. Presence information on the availability of their contacts is also visible, it said.

By clicking on the screen, users will be able to switch from a chat session to a voice conversation or a video conference.

Users will eventually also be able to start a voice call on an office phone, move the conversation to a video conference on a PC or tablet and then conclude it on a mobile phone, according to Alcatel-Lucent.

Alcatel-Lucent intends to make the OpenTouch Conversation client app available on iPhones, Macs, Windows PCs as well as Android-based tablets and smartphones based on both Android and BlackBerry OS.

"We were hoping to use just HTML5, so the client would be immediately portable between different operating systems, but it isn't ready yet," said Walker.

The plan is now to make the iPad client -- which will be compatible with the 2048-by-1536 pixel resolution on the new iPad -- available in June, followed by clients for PCs, Macs later during the year.

A client compatible with Android-tablets and Android-based smartphones will arrive in the beginning of next year, according to Walker. The application for the iPhone will be available for download at the end of the year or in the beginning of 2013.

All the clients will have the same design, Walker said.

For the OpenTouch Conversation clients to work, an enterprise would also need an OpenTouch server, which, in turn, can be integrated with telephony switches from other vendors.

The company didn't announce any pricing, but enterprises will pay per user and communications technology. For example, a company may have a thousand employees, but only pay for 200 of them to be able to use video conferencing, Walker said.

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