CounterPath Reaches NewHeights via Acquisition

Combined companies share a compelling vision of the future role of IP telephony technology.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Aug 8, 2007
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Last Friday, Vancouver, B.C.-based CounterPath Solutions—developer of SIP softphones and other consumer/service provider-oriented communications applications—announced the closing of its acquisition of Ottawa, Ontario-based NewHeights Software, a developer of similar software tools for the enterprise market.

The board of directors of the newly combined company will include officers from both CounterPath and NewHeights.

VoIPplanet.com has written frequently about CounterPath's commercial eyeBeam softphone—which has been deployed by such carriers as AT&T and BT—as well as its download-for-free sibling, X-Lite.

NewHeights and its product line, on the other hand, is new territory for this site. We were fortunate in having an opportunity to speak with Greg Pelling, CEO of the new CounterPath, formerly president of NewHeights, about what that organization brings to the party, and what the future direction of CounterPath might be.

"NewHeights brings three different things," Pelling told VoIPplanet. "First one is the enterprise soft client—softphone—expertise and capabilities." 'Soft client,' because in addition to sophisticated telephony, the SIP-based Desktop Assistant 90, as the product is known, handles video and data collaboration applications.

DA-90 (for short) has been integrated with Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook, among other enterprise apps. It also integrates with a wide variety of directory management and other database tools, both for address-book functionality and a "knowledge management" capability that associates documents and other data with callers.

Quick Conference is a full-blown, server-based conferencing system that scales up to 200 ports. Like all of NewHeights' applications, it is open, standards-based. According to Pelling, "It does all the cool, funky things that a lot of the conferencing systems did a long, long time ago."

We didn't ask what features he was referring to, but Pelling did elaborate on some of Quick Conference's functionality: "It's got full drag-and-drop capability, so you're able to do just-in-time conferencing. You can drag a bunch of people in, and it automatically calls them and says 'Hey, are you available?' " A presence feature shows who's online and who isn't, and will call a pre-set sequence of numbers in an effort to track the whereabouts of potential participants.

The final item in NewHeights' product line, the Edge Application Server, is the most intriguing. "It has full quality-of-service monitoring and management capabilities," Pelling explained. "So, unlike most edge application servers, which hang off the PBX and look back into the carrier cloud for the service provider's capability of managing what's happening in the telephony environment—and going through the carrier to upload and download widgets or applets or whatever you want to your system—our system does the opposite."

Monitoring the service provider's environment and giving end users the ability to pick and choose what they want to download—as opposed to today's typical situation of being essentially "wired into" a service-provider offering—changes the whole game, in Pelling's view. "It has the ability to totally disrupt the way people consume services—and, more importantly, how services are provisioned," he said.

Speaking of the future direction of the company, Pelling told VoIPplanet "We believe that the future of the use of softphones and softphone technology is really going to be more of a catalyst for the consumption and the provisioning of individual applications that users can pick and choose—and pay for, when they want to use them. We believe that the future is going to be the combination of a service and content," he said.

The Edge Application Server incorporates a "service creation environment" component vastly simplifies the process of application development in the telephony environment. The company has groups of students developing code for proof-of-concept apps, that, again combine functionality with content.

Spelling described a couple of applications the group has already rolled out.

One is a system that gives early arrivals at audio conferences multiple choices of current broadcasts of sporting events to listen to—as opposed to three or four or however minutes of "dead air." Asked if they'd pay, say £5 a month per conference bridge, the members of the British "focus group" who tried it out enthusiastically agreed, pointing out that this feature would be likely to get people to the conference more promptly, and would give them all a common topic of conversation to help get the event going smoothly.

In a different kind of application, the developer group put together a system that identifies incoming callers from a database lookup and keeps various records for the call, including monitoring its length and forwarding that information to the billing system.

"We're finding out that it's one thing to have the application; it's another to have it with content," Pelling reiterated.

So, far from just melding a consumer/service–provider oriented product line with its enterprise oriented counterpart, this merger promises to break new ground. "There's a whole bunch of things the combined companies actually have together that haven't yet been commercialized," Pelling said.

It should be interesting to see what emerges.

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