Siemens is hoping to breathe new life into the hoary old 'unified communications' concept, with a software-based platform called OpenScape Unified Communications (UC) Server.

The UC concept – combining voice, instant messaging and video into one, with the ability to see how colleagues want to communicate – has been around for years. But it’s remained difficult to implement, so very few enterprises actually use it.

Vendors are to blame, according to Gerhard Otterbach, chief marketing officer at Siemens Enterprise Communications.

"Implementing unified communications solutions has been very complex; implementing it has been too much work to be practical," Otterbach said.

Siemens is aiming to change all that with OpenScape UC Server, launched at this week's CeBIT trade show. The key, it claimed, is using open standards, such as SIP, and presenting a single management offering.

OpenScape UC Server will come in three versions. The Medium Edition offers unified communications functionality for up to 1,000 users on a single server. The Large Edition supports up to 100,000 users, with full unified communications features for 20,000. The third version is tailored for hosted solutions.

OpenScape UC Server is the platform, and different applications will run on top of it. The most obvious one is voice, which is still a very important application, according to Otterbach. Others include instant messaging and mobility.

At CeBIT, Siemens also introduced OpenScape Video, a voice and video conferencing system that can be used in the meeting room and on the desktop. Featuring support for high-definition video, it's also based on SIP.

OpenScape UC Server and OpenScape Video will start shipping at the end of April. Pricing for the server hasn't been set, but OpenScape Video starts at €6,499 (£5,000) for a single point-to-point product.