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Cisco to release software for voice programs

The company plans to release updated telecommunications software, continuing its efforts to get corporations to use Internet-based technology for voice communications.

Cisco Systems said today it plans to release an updated set of telecommunications software next quarter, continuing its efforts to get corporations to use Internet-based technology for voice communications.

Cisco is adding the new technology to an existing Internet-based voice networking strategy for corporations announced last fall called "Avvid." The technology is commonly referred to as voice-over-IP or Internet telephony, and Cisco hopes to spearhead the market for it.

The company plans to release software that will let third-party developers of corporate voice programs tap into a basic set of software interfaces provided by Cisco. Cisco, for example, will build software applications for voice-response systems, such as the messages that greet and direct after-hours callers to the desired department or employee by telling the caller to choose from a menu of options.

The benefits of Internet-based voice systems are potentially numerous. Corporations can use the same network wiring to connect PCs and phones and thereby can create communications between the two. Net telephony also promises to reduce costs, because voice traffic can ride across a private corporate network rather than the public telephone network--a trend often called "convergence." But some companies have been slow to adopt the technology, choosing to tinker with it in labs.

Nevertheless, Cisco executives say the company has 4,000 customers for its corporate voice products, with two dozen preparing to launch the technologies on a wide scale. In the last six months, the company has shipped more than 100,000 Internet phones, according to executives, and more than 10,000 Cisco employees use the technology internally.

"In terms of people buying into the vision and the strategy, I think we're seeing evidence of that," said Marthin De Beer, senior director of marketing for convergence solutions at Cisco.

Other technologies Cisco soon plans to sell include a new set of PC software that allows computer users to control their Internet phone from a PC and software called an IP Contact Center that links older systems to Internet telephony equipment and manages phone calls.