RealTime IT News

Microsoft Prizes VoIP SaaS Solutions

Microsoft  is giving its hosted software business a push in the telecommunications arena.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor announced today that it is introducing a new sandbox and sponsoring a competition for developers interested in creating hosted VoIP  applications using its Connected Services framework and its Hosted Messaging and Collaboration suite.

Since the introduction of those frameworks last year, Microsoft has seen significant enterprise and consumer adoption of both software-as-a-service (SaaS)  and VoIP, and clearly doesn't want to be left behind in the race for IP-based telephony dollars.

The company, which announced the sandbox initiative and competition at the ITU Telecom World 2006 conference in Hong Kong today, said it is trying to focus on three areas of fundamental importance to its strategy in the communications industry: service delivery, revenue-generating services and end-user devices and screens.

The new Connected Services sandbox introduced today is designed to provide independent software vendors, systems integrators, network equipment providers and telecom services providers with a platform for developing and testing Web-based services that will work in combination with traditional telecommunications offerings.

Pieter Knook, senior vice president of the mobile and embedded devices division at Microsoft, noted that traditional telecommunications industry players are threatened by new Web-based businesses, and invited market leaders to lean on Microsoft technology to respond to those new threats.

"Microsoft is uniquely positioned to provide the operating platform through which the industry can create new services," he said in a statement.

Michael O'Hara, general manager for the communications sector at Microsoft, said the goal of sandbox "is to facilitate the rapid development and market deployment of scores of new service offerings."

O'Hara speculated that operators would "open their networks to next-generation Web 2.0 applications that can be mashed together with traditional services to create new connected services."

Microsoft is joining a crowd of vendors hoping to become preferred platforms for the telecom industry, including IBM , Oracle  and BEA .

Perhaps in an effort to stand out in the fray, Microsoft also announced that it is partnering with BT  to sponsor a series of design and development competitions.

Microsoft said that contestants should create new service designs and build functional prototypes of their new designs.

The competitions will begin in January.

The companies hope this will help them identify innovative connected services that they can take to market. As a sponsor of the initial competitions, BT will get first dibs at testing and marketing the winning prototypes.

Other early announced participants in the developer sandbox include Bell Canada, Nortel and Ubiquity Software.