Siemens ICN has released version 2.0 of its OpenScape communication software.

With companies switching from traditional telephone switches into packet-based systems with many forms of messaging, Siemens has fleshed out HiPath OpenScape 2.0 with greater scalability and a toolkit that lets third parties do more with it, including developing new applications. The update also improves how it works with common Microsoft apps like Outlook.

OpenScape acts as an enterprise communications portal that shows which employees are reachable and on what medium, as well as easy methods for sending and retrieving messages and starting conferences and collaboration sessions. It is designed to boost productivity by eliminating time-consuming communications chores.

"It's really important for people not to have to chase each other and leave messages in four places before we connect," said Gene Rodgers, head of Star Information Technology, a systems integration company that uses OpenScape internally and has been a beta tester of OpenScape 2.0.

The best addition to OpenScape, Rodgers said, is the software development toolkit, which allowed his company to fully integrate it with Microsoft's SharePoint portal software. Previously, employees had been able to use only about three-quarters of OpenScape's features through SharePoint. Now it can integrate all of them.

This type of software, as well as the market for it, is still in its infancy, according to industry analysts. But the move from traditional circuit-based to packet-based infrastructures is a major shift. "This is the beginning of what will be a large number of value-added applications that extend your traditional telephony environment," said Gartner analyst Jeffrey Snyder. "IP telephony is not just a replacement for your PBX."

OpenScape 2.0 can support as many as 2,000 users per processor, up from 500 in the previous version. In addition to running it on multiple-processor servers, users now can group together multiple servers to support more users. In addition, a processor can now support as many as 5,000 formal and informal workgroups, said Gary Paris, vice president of HiPath solutions for Siemens.

The voice portal feature, through which users can sign in to teleconferences, retrieve messages and access online information, now supports natural-language commands. That means users can give commands in their own words rather than in set phrases, he said.

OpenScape 2.0 will be available in early August. Pricing is now modular: $125 for the core technology, with voice portal features available for an additional $100 per user and collaboration features for $25 more. Siemens ICN will add French, Italian, Castilian Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese to the current English and German.