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RealTime IT News

Microsoft Looks to 'Istanbul' for IM, Telephony

Microsoft announced its entry into the red-hot VoIP market Tuesday with the beta release of a new communications client capable of powering instant messaging, telephony integration and PC-based voice and video.

The software giant used the Fall 2004 VON Conference & Expo stage in Boston to introduce the client, code-named Istanbul, as a "client of choice" replacement for Windows Messenger in a new version of the Office Live Communications Server (LCS).

The existing LCS 2003 uses Windows Messenger as the embedded IM client, but when Istanbul ships, enterprise customers can expect to see the new communications client handling all aspects of text, presence, voice and video.

Anoop Gupta, vice president of the Real-Time Collaboration Business Group at Microsoft, said Istanbul represented a key milestone by integrating various modes of communication in one unified desktop experience.

Once Istanbul joins LCS 2005, Gupta said the client would enhance presence and real-time collaboration by including availability data, such as out-of-office information, to allow business users to control their communications based on their presence.

More importantly, Istanbul allows the use of a single interface to switch from instant messaging to conferencing to traditional telephony. Gupta said Istanbul would be integrated with Microsoft Office Live Meeting to allow users to initiate collaboration directly from existing desktop applications.

During a keynote address at the VON show, Gupta encouraged attendees to beta test Istanbul and make suggestions to refine the product. He said the overall goal is for the integration of various communications and collaboration technologies to increase the productivity of teams of information workers.

For example, with Istanbul, a user could search various address books for a company contact and view their status. That status information can be more than an away message, but could also include an embedded out-of-office reply.

"The rich presence integrated inside search is very important," Gupta said.

The user interface for Istanbul looks very much like a standard IM menu, with contact lists and icons, but integration and interoperability promises increased functionality. In addition to IM and search, Istanbul blends VoIP and conferencing technologies.

The final release of LCS 2005 is scheduled for later this year; Istanbul is scheduled to ship in the first half of 2005.

internetnews.com Managing Editor Colin Haley contributed to this story.