Teo is to launch an unified communications system that integrates with Microsoft Exchange late this year, the company announced at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans.

Teo, formerly Tone Commander Systems, is developing a UC system that will help organisations consolidate IP voice, voicemail, email, messaging, audio conferencing, fax, speech recognition and mobile devices into a single integrated system,  said Tom Beck, business strategy executive at Teo.

"We integrate directly at the core of Microsoft applications," Beck said, meaning that organizations can make use of older servers to make the process work.

The product works with Teo IP phones and servers and gateways that Teo also provides. The system's software was developed by AltiGen Communications, Teo said.

Beck did not announce pricing, but described the system as costing 30 percent less but with more features than unified communications systems on the market, from vendors including Avaya Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Nortel Networks, Siemens and ShoreTel Inc. Typical UC systems for 500 workers can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

Beta testing of the Teo UC system is underway at six organisations, Beck said.

Even though Avaya and other vendors began offering unified communications systems more than four years ago, Beck said the systems have been hard to install and costly. "Until now, you could get there with UC, but it was not easy from an administrative perspective, since you had servers to bridge, and plenty of legacy gear," he said.

"We wanted to make it easy to install and to leverage your investment in Microsoft Outlook and Exchange to reduce your communications costs," he said.

Beck said Teo has worked under the Tone Commander name for 37 years, having a trusted reputation with dozens of federal agencies for offering highly secure communications products. More than 20 federal agencies are expected to be interested in the Teo UC, he said.

One unusual feature of the Teo UC will be the ability to integrate mobile and distributed employees using wireless smartphones based on the Google-backed Android, BlackBerry and iPhone operating systems.

Workers using those devices would be able to work remotely with the same communications power of a desk phone, giving them directory access, the ability to transfer calls to others at work, and access to visual voicemail (a system commonly using voice-to-text software to allow users to see machine transcriptions of voice mail).

"Some IT managers will see their organizations don't need the landline anymore," Beck said.

The Teo UC will work from Teo media servers at the headquarters and branch offices, and administration can be provided easily through Microsoft Outlook. A software development kit (SDK) is included for building customer applications.

Michael Osterman, an analyst at Osterman Research, said in that Teo's UC provides a "truly simple user experience as well as streamlined administration features."