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Mobile Communicator Via Microsoft

Microsoft took its integrated voice, video and telephony client software out for a spin in the mobile world today by unveiling a transportable version that is tailor-made for wireless phones and handheld devices.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer introduced Office Communicator Mobile at the 3GSM World Congress event in Barcelona during a keynote presentation.

Based on the interface of the company's Office Communicator 2005 desktop client, Communicator Mobile will provide integrated and seamless communications across all types of messaging boundaries, including Web-based video conferencing, voice over IP (VoIP), instant messaging (IM), voice communications and real-time collaborative environments, said Microsoft.

The software is designed to work with Live Communications Server (LCS) 2005 and to provide seamless voice and data communications. It also provides real-time "presence" capabilities to deskbound users of such business messaging staples as Microsoft Outlook, as well as such mainstays-in-waiting as SharePoint Portal Server and Live Meeting.

A handful of LCS 2005 users has already deployed the Mobile Communicator client software as part of a beta test program, said Microsoft, including Siemens Business Services and Linklaters, an international law firm based in the U.K.

The software can also be used to create and manage an IM presence over a company's Wi-Fi network, as well as provide a collaborative bridge to users working via a Wi-Fi hotspot or home network.

Mobile users can set their presence information via their cell phones and engage in IM group chats from their handheld devices.

"Now more than ever, presence is becoming an essential part of the communications infrastructure, giving customers choices and preferences for interacting with their co-workers," said Irwin Lazar, a senior analyst at Burton Group, in a statement.

Windows Mobile is offered by 102 mobile operators and 47 device manufacturers in 55 countries, according to Microsoft. The company shipped more than 6 million Windows Mobile-based connected devices in 2005.

It is "a key component of Microsoft's vision for unified communications, putting people at the center and enabling information workers to have access to real-time communications capabilities virtually anytime, anywhere, on any device," said Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president for the Unified Communications Group at Microsoft.

The idea is to "provide a consistent real-time communications experience across PCs and smart mobile devices."

Communicator Mobile also supports Session Initial Protocol (SIP) and SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE), which are de facto standards for conferencing, telephony, multimedia and other types of communication over the Internet.

Communicator Mobile is expected to be available for download for LCS customers within 60 days.

During his keynote, Ballmer also demonstrated Windows Mobile Device Center, a synchronization system that will work with Vista, the company's new operating system scheduled to be released later this year.

The Windows Mobile Device Center, demonstrated by Ballmer during his 3GSM keynote, works with the company's coming Vista operating system.

The Mobile Device Center will work with the Vista Sync Center utility to unify the management of synchronization activities across Windows Mobile-based devices and the synchronization between other PCs and files shared across networks.

Ballmer also previewed a live TV service for mobile phones that will soon be available to European users of Windows Mobile smartphones initially through Virgin Mobile and BT Movio.

Virgin Group founder, Sir Richard Branson, made the announcement by beaming a live video message to attendees as 3GSM via one of the first Windows Mobile phones equipped to handle the broadcasts, manufactured by HTC Corp.

British Telecom has been testing the BT Movio digital audio broadcasting (DAB) service for more than four months, reporting that people in a trial group watched about 60 minutes of television and listened to 95 minutes of audio per week on their mobile devices.