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Nortel Boards Microsoft's Office Communications Train

Microsoft will release more details of its Unified Communications (UC) strategy and vision today at an event in San Francisco headlined by its famous founder and chairman Bill Gates. On hand will be telecom giant Nortel, which said it plans to be first-to-market with the broadest portfolio of UC solutions and applications built around Microsoft's new Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 and Office Communicator 2007.

In January, the two companies cemented their plans to collaborate on a joint roadmap and the payoff has come quickly.

"With solutions that span VoIP, branch office, conferencing, IP phones, data networking and integration services, Nortel is providing enterprises with the industry's most complete portfolio of unified communications solutions to enhance their Microsoft OCS experience," said Joel Hackney, Nortel's president of enterprise solutions, in a statement.

Nortel said it expects to be first in the industry to offer customers software-based "native" interoperability between its IP-PBX portfolio and OCS 2007, which promises richer functionality and less complexity and operations costs.

By some time during the first quarter of 2008, Nortel said it plans to deliver several Microsoft-compatible solutions.

First among those solutions will be Converged Office, expected in the first quarter of 2008. The product integrates the telephony feature set of Nortel's IP-PBX with OCS 2007 and scales to tens of thousands of users while supporting businesses' existing internal dial plans.

Converged Office also lets OCS' Office Communicator client become the single end-user interface to perform all UC functions, such as VoIP soft client, instant messaging, presence, conferencing and remote call control of any desk phone connected to a Nortel IP-PBX.

Another planned product is Nortel Multimedia Conferencing 5.0, a reservation-less, customer-premises audio/video solution, which provides subscribers with ubiquitous access to an "always on" conferencing resource. Multimedia Conferencing 5.0 offers users the ability to dial-in to a conference from anywhere, and from any device.

The integration of Nortel's Multimedia Conferencing with Office Communication Server 2007 is designed to support a mix of attendee types, including on- and off-premises users and guests with desktop clients, analog phones, digital or IP phones. Also, the joint conferencing solution enables users to easily escalate an audio conference to a desktop videoconference.

The work builds on a number of joint deployments. To date, Nortel said it has provided unified communications services from its Global Services portfolio in more than 40 joint deployments with Microsoft globally.

As a strategic systems integration partner for Microsoft's UC solutions, Nortel also said it has more than 120 Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers and 40 people certified to support Exchange 2007. In addition, Nortel expects to have more than 100 people certified to support Office Communications Server 2007 by early next year.

Last week, rival IBM tried to crash Microsoft's party a bit by announcing a tight level of integration between its own UC platform, Sametime, and its new, free Lotus Symphony productivity suite.

InternetNews.com will have more details on the Microsoft news and event later today.