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IDC Says Microsoft Could Be a Telecom Player

A new report from IDC suggests that Microsoft could emerge as a major force in the burgeoning telecom sector of voice over IP (VoIP) services.

Since the battle for control of the enterprise desktop may center on new and emerging technologies that let users communicate via voice over IP data networks or the Internet, instead of over the telephone companies' public switched networks, expect Microsoft to be in the thick of the fray, the Framingham, Mass.-based technology research and consulting firm said.

"Conferencing and collaboration are becoming more important," Tom Valovic, director of IDC's IP Telephony Program, told InternetNews.com. "We're seeing a surge in video conferencing, web conferencing and voice conferencing." Advanced IP-PBX systems will make these available at the desktop level, and eventually, Valovic believes, they'll hook into business systems and software such as customer relationship management applications.

Collaborative applications that offer multiple routes to a user and multiple ways to share information represent what Valovic, calls "the logical end point of IT and telecom convergence."

Microsoft has an advantage in this area thanks to its instant messaging technology and its decision to incorporate the Session Initiated Protocol (SIP) standard into its Microsoft Office RTC Server 2003 and the Windows XP operating system, according to Valovic. RTC Server is intended to provide secure, enterprise instant messaging and presence -- the ability to detect whether a user is online and available. It is also geared to be a platform for the kinds of communications technologies that Valovic is talking about.

Sending voice over data networks would let Microsoft compete with IP-PBX vendors such as Cisco, Avaya, Alcatel, Siemens, Nortel, and 3Com. "This is an embryonic market," Valovic said. "Nobody really knows what these applications will be, how successful they'll be, or how well integrated with computing platforms they'll be. But the real kicker is, IPPBX, unlike traditional PBX, is all about software." And selling software is something Microsoft knows all about.



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