The Voice99 conference at Olympia last week was dominated by IT behemoths such as Compaq trying to muscle in on the opportunities created by the convergence of the telecoms and computer industry. Alongside these new entrants were stands from traditional telecoms giants such as Lucent and Nortel, and smaller telephony and call centre software specialists. Notable absentees included Nokia, Ericsson and Siemens, as well as Sun Microsystems, which has a range of servers aimed at the telecoms market. Prospective customers seemed a bit thin on the ground, and a straw poll of exhibitors revealed a majority blamed this on occupation with year 2000 compliance. However, Andrew Gibb, group director of show organiser Advanstar, said: "Every indication is that attendance is up on last year. Pre-registration was 31 per cent higher than last year." Exhibitors predicted a wave market adoption, spurred by the convergence of internet and voice technologies. Nik Soheili, sales manager at call centre application vendor Genesys, said: "The market is ready to explode as soon as companies stop dedicating resources to millennium compliance." But the much-vaunted convergence of data networking and voice channels was not much in evidence. Peter Willson, sales manager at call centre application developer Swan Solutions, said the majority of his resellers were traditional comms dealers. "There are still two types of people out there - those with voice skills and those with data skills," he said. Two Vars claimed to have both voice and data skills - Datapoint and ML Integration. Darren Gallagher, senior systems engineer at ML Networks, said vendors looking for partners to help them introduce converged voice and data products are finding it difficult. "Companies with the right skills are in a very strong position," he said. Compaq has recently launched Compaq Telecommunications, and was busy telling attendees that its 'zero latency' servers are the ideal foundation for real-time customer contact and ebusiness applications. Dr Amarjit Singh, director of telecoms industry marketing at Compaq, admitted it wasn't easy finding the right channel to market. Compaq must first concentrate on improving its relationship with global systems integrators, he added. Steve Greenwood, general manager of Dialogic, said there was a real opportunity for channel players to take open-standards voice technologies, ratified by the Enterprise Computer Telephony Forum, and beat established telecoms vendors at their own game. "Resellers can put together systems based around open interfaces and offer real best-of-breed flexibility," he said. - Nortel demonstrated its new Enterprise Edge all-in-one communications platform aimed at the SME market. Enterprise Edge is expected to be the first Nortel PBX product available to the UK channel. Details of its distribution strategy are yet to be finalised.
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