CommuniGate Upgrades Unified Communications Client

Pronto! 1.2 takes the communications server vendor one step closer to being a direct VoIP facilitator.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Sep 26, 2007
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California-based CommuniGate Systems, which began life as a provider of highly scalable e-mail solutions for enterprises and Internet service providers, has moved relentlessly over the past several years to expand the role of its server product line to embrace the entire spectrum of IP communications. (See Related Articles.)

A couple of years ago, according to CommuniGate VP of business development Jon Doyle, the company began to think about 'getting into the client space.' "If you look at messaging successes," Doyle said "—[Microsoft] Exchange, for example—the one thing they generally have is a good client —in that case, Outlook. I firmly believe that the success of Exchange was due to the fact that the Outlook client became pretty much the ubiquitous client."

CommuniGate, Doyle told Enterprise VoIPplanet.com, didn't have a client strategy. The company had just been "turning customers loose to find their own clients."

"As messaging became much more powerful, and began to include instant messaging and presence information—and now voice communications—there really wasn't a client on the market that could do all these things," Doyle said. That is, bringing the telephony world together with messaging, presence and multimedia content.

How to build such a client was a formidable puzzle—until CommuniGate encountered Adobe's Flex2 environment for Flash. Flex2 solved a whole handful of baffling problems, most notably portability—the Flash player has 98 percent penetration on a wide variety of Web browsers on every known platform—and security.

"While there's a lot of fanfare around Ajax and JavaScript in terms of ease of creating rich applications," Doyle pointed out, " it's actually full of security holes. It's insecure because you're pulling a lot of stuff down into your browser, and it can have malicious code in it and do . . . nasty things."

Flash, by contrast, doesn't have access to your PC at all. Rather it runs in a fully contained memory space.

Based on these considerations—plus the fact that Flash was inherently built to work with multimedia—CommuniGate went to work building its unified communications client "framework"—Pronto!—around Flex2.

Last week, the company announced the release of Pronto! 1.2, the third iteration of the package. It embraces e-mail (of course), instant messaging, calendaring, contact management, voicemail management—along with some other telephony capabilities we'll get to in a moment—and the ability to store, manage, and play audio and video files.

Pronto!'s calendaring now supports drag-and-drop creation and modification of event, as well as shared calendars, and merging multiple calendars into a single view.

Telephony functionality includes incoming and outgoing call logging, user-configured call forwarding, and a click-to-call feature that dials calls directly from the contact manager.

For the time being, click-to-call works only via an installed third-party softphone, or a SIP hard phone connected to the network. But version 1.3 "that comes out in November of this year," Doyle said, "actually has a voice dialer." That is to say, a self contained softphone.

"That's not a trivial thing," Doyle commented. "The reason we have taken so long to put a softphone in is that using the speakers and microphone on the PC is quite difficult with Flash," due to the very security and containment issues mentioned earlier. "You're not supposed to have access to a lot of things on a PC, so we had to develop a module that allows that to happen."

As an extra bonus for working with Flex2, CommuniGate plans to take advantage of the built-in API, called ActionScript. With it, customers or developers can create and "snap in" to the client interface, little applications—such as shopping carts, weather forecast modules, or, say, an applet to extract the gist of a voicemail, do a speech-to-text conversion, and send it as an e-mail. "Think of it like an application server that runs on the desktop rather than inside the server," Doyle.

Pronto! 1.2 is available in an enterprise edition, starting at $849 for a 25-user license. ISP pricing is based on volume.

To get a look at the interface—even sign up and get your own free on-line account—check out https://talktoip.com/. f

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