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Cloud-based business communications provider ThinkingPhones is integrating its features with Google's Gmail, highlighting the ongoing meld of business and personal applications in unified communications tools.
ThinkingPhones for Gmail, the new collaboration app available as a Google Chrome extension, features the vendor's click-to-call, instant messaging (IM) and presence technologies. It's the latest example of the industry's move to mesh integration, consumerization and the use of lightweight, browser-based services to enable unified communications (UC).
"I think integration is the name of the game in the UC space," said Michael Affronti, vice president of product at ThinkingPhones, based in Cambridge, Mass. He added that the company looks to put its tools where customers work in order to limit context switch.
ThinkingPhones customers wanted tighter integration with Google Apps, Affronti said. Some customers may have contacts in Google and use Google's IM service, but they were also running the ThinkingPhones desktop app, which also provides IM, he said.
ThinkingPhones wanted to integrate itself into email, the primary place where people are spending their time in Google Apps, Affronti said.
Alan Lepofskyprincipal analyst, Constellation Research
The collaboration app adds to a growing set of tools in the UC market with a goal of seamless context for users, said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc., based in Silicon Valley, Calif.
"The more seamless the experience can be, the more likely people are to use it," he said. "Employees don't want to switch from one tool to another. They want people, content and actions right within the context of the work they are doing."
Consumerization and lightweight communications
In addition to integration, the ThinkingPhones collaboration app provides end users with another option to use tools that work for them in a BYOD world, said Melanie Turek, analyst at Frost & Sullivan, based in Mountain View, Calif.
"I think it's a great move for ThinkingPhones and its customers," Turek said. "It will help existing Google users, and it might appeal to those companies that are considering Google Apps as a corporate standard."
ThinkingPhones offers a range of UC cloud-based services, including business voice, mobile communications and video conferencing. ThinkingPhones users are usually midsized to large organizations. While most Google Apps users are SMBs, large enterprises use Google Apps, too, Turek said.
A ThinkingPhones for Gmail customer could be a large organization with satellite offices or mobile employees looking for lightweight, browser-based services in lieu of deploying a full desktop client, Affronti said. The app's features include email, IM, real-time presence, and contact calling and searching from within Gmail.
To use the collaboration app, users need a ThinkingPhones account and to be part of a particular pricing bundle. No desktop client is required and the app download is free.
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