Why is Microsoft Chatty About Communicator?

Microsoft  said it will launch a public
beta of Office Communications Server 2007 and its client, Microsoft Office
Communicator later this month.

The new application stack is the Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor’s
response to IBM’s  unified
communications
strategy. Both efforts are an attempt to centralize voice
and data communications through a single client on the desktop or handheld
device.

OCS takes advantage of Microsoft’s dominant position on the desktop by
integrating click-to-call features into Microsoft’s Outlook, Office, and Office SharePoint Server applications. OCS also allows mobile workers to use their office phone numbers and other corporate communications tools, such as instant messaging (IM) and audio or video conferencing at remote locations.

Janice Kapner, director of marketing for Microsoft’s Unified Communications group,
admitted that Microsoft is a newcomer to the telecommunications arena, and
will have to earn customers’ trust.


“We’re not going to come out and say,
‘hey, trust us with your phones,’ we know we’re not intuitive to this, so we
have to earn the credibility,” she told internetnews.com

She said this is one reason why Microsoft is partnering with known telecom vendors like Nortel , with which it has signed a strategic alliance.


This is also the reason for Microsoft’s presence at the VoiceCon trade show
this year, Kapner noted.

Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s business division, will deliver a
keynote address at VoiceCon later today, during which he will predict that
the cost of VoIP  applications will be cut in half over
the next three years as VoIP systems move from hardware to software.

According to Kapner, much of the cost savings will come from this
software-based approach, which will give customers more choice over
equipment purchases and even allow them to leverage their existing PBX   systems, whether they are IP-based or not.

Customers will be able to integrate their legacy PBX systems with OCS by
purchasing a VoIP gateway appliance that sits between the PBX and Exchange
2007; this gateway translates traditional PBX protocols into VoIP protocols.

“That’s a strong differentiator for us,” she said.

To support OSC, Kapner said Microsoft today is releasing interoperability specifications to potential telephony partners.

The specification is based on the SIP  protocol. Kapner
couldn’t say whether or how much proprietary code is part of the new
specification.

Microsoft expects to release the product to market sometime this summer, but
would not make pricing available at this time.

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