On Oct. 21 ShoreTel announced it had acquired Agito Networks. In the $11.4 million deal ShoreTel acquired all of Agito’s intellectual property, customer base, distribution network, and 17 of its 25 employees.
With over 500 employees and $170 million a year in revenues, ShoreTel provides unified communications (UC) solutions based on its own IP business phone system. Agito’s technology enables enterprises to extend voice and UC to mobile phones.
ShoreTel executives say the acquisition gives them access to needed technology at a time when customers are clamoring for greater mobility in their UC systems.
“People want to take the power of UC that we provide when someone is at their office phone, and extend that while they are away from their offices,” said Kevin Gavin, vice president of marketing for ShoreTel.
ShoreTel has been working on its own mobility solutions and has developed an application that can be downloaded onto smartphones, but Gavin said company executives have not been satisfied with its functionality.
“It was more of a dashboard, more of a one-way look into your communication life,” he said. Users could see visual voice mail, peruse call logs, access corporate directories, “but we didn’t have the ability to place calls [from within the app]. You had to still use your cell phone.
“Agito had what we were missing, the ability to make that smartphone a fully two-way capable phone, an extension of your office communications.”
Agito, meanwhile, had reached a point in its lifecycle where, after four and a half years, it needed to make a move if it was going to get to the next level.
“From the Agito standpoint, we were at the stage where as a small business we were engaged in selling to medium to large-size enterprises, and that is a time consuming effort,” said former Agito executive Pejman Roshan, now senior director of product manufacturing for mobility at ShoreTel. “So in order for us to grow in scale, it made sense for us to join forces with a much bigger brother.”
The new solution will be called ShoreTel Mobility and will require two application downloads in order to make use of all its functions. Users will need to access the existing ShoreTel Communicator application, and will also download Agito’s RoamAnywhere Client.
Roshan said the dual downloads should not make things unduly complicated for users, although there is a long-range plan to merge the applications. “There is no overlap in functionality, so you’ll just run these clients that do two different things. Then as a convenience we will tie them both together over time,” he said.
In the acquisition, ShoreTel also buys itself a ready-made leg up in the realm of interoperability. Agito has broad smartphone interoperability, and has a track record of support for Avaya, Cisco, ShoreTel, and other enterprise IP PBX systems.
Gavin said ShorTel will be looking to leverage that history to move beyond the company’s tradition of focusing on ShoreTel PBXs as the natural environment for its solutions. “We have made a conscious, affirmative decision to support the heterogeneous approach to various PBXs,” he said. If a single enterprise has Cisco, Avaya, and ShoreTel systems installed in three different locations, for example, “we absolutely will sell ShoreTel Mobility to layer across all three of those offices, across all three of those PBXs.”
Mobility should serve ShoreTel customers in a range of industries. “The need for empowering mobile knowledge workers is pretty broad and pretty horizontal across all market segments,”
Gavin said. “A couple of segments do seem to stand out. In the medical professional area for instance there are a lot of doctors and nurses on campuses who need to not be at their desks. This applies to any kind of vertical that has a large percentage of people who are not desk bound.”
Ultimately, Agito’s technology for enhanced mobility will be most attractive as a cost-saving measure, especially for businesses with significant international calling. “With the ShoreTel Mobility solution now enabled by this acquisition, the call can be made through the client on that smartphone, through the PBX, and then dialed at a negotiated rate that can be pennies a minute.”