Siemens announced it will update its HiPath Xpressions message platform to make it easier to use on the go and with non-Siemens enterprise phone systems.
Among other things, HiPath Xpressions 4.0 adds voice commands and a number of shortcuts for managing and retrieving messages, as well as support for SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), according to Ralph Riley, US group manager for product marketing at Siemens.
The platform, which runs on standard server hardware in enterprises, lets users access their voice mail, e-mail and faxes via a PC or a phone. Through its text-to-speech feature, users can have their e-mail messages and faxes read to them along with voice mail on any phone. They can also respond to e-mail from a phone by recording a voice clip and attaching it to the reply message, Riley said.
By adding speech recognition to the software, Siemens is introducing "hands free" message playback and other functions, he said. In addition to retrieving messages, users can update a calendar entry, accept a calendar request, manage contact lists and forward messages through voice commands.
Another new feature, Trusted Number Access, lets users bypass the usual authentication process when they dial in to the HiPath Xpressions server from a frequently used number such as a cell phone, Riley said. A call will go directly to the server's menu. Navigating the menu is also intended to be easier in the new version, which includes abbreviated prompts for experienced users and programmable shortcuts that users can set up through a Web interface.
Siemens also expanded multivendor support. HiPath Xpressions 4.0 can work with 14 different PBX (private branch exchange) platforms, so employees connected to any of those PBXes can access and manage voice mail through Xpressions along with their e-mail, Riley said.
In addition, the company has made HiPath Xpressions compatible with SIP. Because this standard signaling system is widely used in IP (Internet Protocol) telephony and messaging systems, the Siemens product will work easily with many SIP-based platforms and applications, Riley said. Without SIP support, interoperability needs to be set up for one product at a time, he said.
Siemens' added support for third-party voice-mail systems is a major enhancement to the platform, said Robert Arnold, an analyst at Current Analysis. Some companies have several different phone and voice-mail systems in different divisions or locations, sometimes because they have acquired other companies. Making all those existing systems work with HiPath Xpressions could make life easier, he said.
For one thing, if administrators can manage all the systems under HiPath Xpressions, it will be easier to set up consistent policies for how and when different employees can use certain services, Arnold said. In addition, the programmable shortcut feature will let administrators set up key combinations for each division or office that duplicate the ones on the legacy voice-mail system they have been using, he said.
HiPath Xpressions 4.0 will be available in September, priced starting at US$80 per seat. It will come in versions for US English, French, French Canadian, American Spanish, German, UK English, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Turkish, and Russian. Text-to-speech capability is available in UK English, US English, German, French, American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. Speech recognition is available only in US English in this release.