Cisco spends $31 million on mobility start-up

Company will use technology from Orative to extend its Unified Communications product to cell phones, smart phones.

Cisco Systems is expected to announce Thursday plans to spend $31 million on a small start-up called Orative, a move meant to help Cisco extend its Unified Communications software to mobile devices.

Cisco's Unified Communications software suite, announced earlier this year , ties Cisco's Call Manager, an Internet protocol PBX that routes phone calls over an IP infrastructure, with a presence server, which collects status and availability data from users' devices and feeds it to Cisco applications. It also connects the Call Manager to the personal communicator tool, which allows users to see on their PCs or IP phones who is online.

Currently, corporate customers using the Unified Communications suite are limited to linking and tracking people using PCs or laptops. But as more workers use their smart phones and cell phones to conduct business, Cisco recognizes that adding a mobile component is important .

"Over 28 percent of workers are mobile today," said Barry O'Sullivan, vice president of IP communications for Cisco. "And many are away from their office for a significant amount of time. We want to give these workers full access to unified communications."

Specifically, this means giving mobile workers the ability to see a list of voice mails or receive a notification of a conference call on their mobile handsets. Mobile users will also be able to access personal and corporate phone directories and make five-digit calls from their cell phones.

Cisco has already struck deals with a few handset makers, including Nokia, to extend its Unified Communications applications to mobile phones. But because handset makers use different operating systems, extending the application to every mobile device on the market is difficult.

This is where Orative comes in. It's developed a product that integrates Cisco's communications software with different mobile operating systems.

"Orative has already developed technology across the different platforms," O'Sullivan said. "It has all the agreements in place with device makers and has gone through the certification process. It seemed like a natural fit to bring that expertise inside of Cisco."

Orative is the eighth Cisco acquisition in 2006, and the 115th acquisition Cisco has made to date. The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of Cisco's fiscal year 2007. After the transaction is complete, Orative's 33 employees will be integrated into Cisco's Voice Technology Group.

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