Plantronics Unwraps New UC Products

Jan 26, 2011 (01:01 PM EST)

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With Apollo mission astronaut Buzz Aldrin kicking things off, Plantronics today announced three new Unified Communications (UC) products.

The Santa Cruz, CA company used the occasion to celebrate its 50th anniversary with industry partners and Aldrin, who managed the first moonwalk 42 years ago and is famously pictured wearing a Plantronics headset.

In 1969, Aldrin was the pilot of the Apollo 11 lunar lander and was the second human to set foot on the moon -- the first being mission leader Neil Armstrong.

Amidst the product announcement, Aldrin jovially signed his autobiography and granted interviews to reporters, partners and investors in attendance.

"After being on the moon, I figured, well, that's ancient news. It kind of fades," Aldrin. 81, told the crowd, adding that he still holds the spirit of adventure.

Buzz Aldrin
(click image for larger view)
Buzz Aldrin For Plantronics

Amidst space fever, there was no missing the real point of this gathering -- Plantronics' official announcement and immediate rollout of its three newest products. These include a new UC headset featuring sensor technology, a new UC speakerphone and a UC toolkit for the enterprise.

All three products are available now.

Leaping off the lunar team's use of Plantronics headsets, the company announced shipment of the Voyager PRO UC Bluetooth headset, which InformationWeek's Fritz Nelson reviewed today and examined at CES .

Smart DSP sensor technology, executives said, lead to a device that can sense when you're wearing it, auto-answers when a user puts the headset on and supports smart routing.

That is, the set can automatically route audio to the phone because it knows when it is and is not being worn on the head.

These sensors also communicate with messaging systems like Skype and Microsoft Communicator (and Lync), not just with voice, but communicating presence. In fact, wearing the headset can tell Lync or Skype that you're now available for a voice chat; and if you’re on a mobile call with the Voyager Pro, it tells those systems (and your contacts) that you're busy.

"This is a breakthrough announcement for us," said Bill Loewenthal, Plantronics' vice president of unified communications solutions.

The company also launced its Calisto 800 series of multi-device speakerphones at the event. Targeted at the millions who now telecommute at least part or all of the workweek, the hands-free system design focuses on noise cancellation and some renditions include a wireless lapel microphone.

That system, he said, is optimized for Microsoft Office Communicator and Lync and will support hard phone systems as well as soft ones from Skype, IBM, Cisco and Ayaya.

Representatives from Avaya and Cisco were in full force. Microsoft participated remotely via a pre-prepared video.

Finally, Plantronics announced the availability of its new Plantronics UC Toolkit. "Enterprises have to do this," Loewenthal said. "They have to embrace the move to unified communications and that is why we created this."

Through the two hours of products announcements and afterward, Aldrin mused about his lunar adventures and about how voice, not texting, is still the preferred way of communicating.

Could Neil Armstrong have texted "that's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?" Armstrong cringed at the thought. Perhaps then the quotation would be correct. (Armstrong actually said 'a man," Aldrin said, adding that the 'a" was inadvertently dropped.

The text might've been more accurate, but "it wouldn't have been nearly as fun."

For InformationWeek and the new, I'm Gina Smith.