Competing with manufacturers

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2004-12-20 Print this article Print

While Microsofts strategy may not take market share from the telephone companies, its move into voice communications does put it in competition with the network equipment manufacturers that traditionally supported the carriers. By embedding the operating system in user devices, Microsoft competes with IP "soft" phone makers such as Nortel Networks Ltd. and Avaya Inc.; by further integrating it into switches, it would compete with Cisco Systems Inc.

"Theres certainly overlap with traditional telco equipment providers," OHara said.

Microsoft isnt the only giant in the IT world making inroads into the voice business. Other software makers, including Oracle Corp., are taking steps to make voice integral to their traditional data systems.

"Everybody uses the telephone. I think thats the link behind what these companies are trying to do—tap into that workflow tool that everybody uses," said Brent Kelly, an analyst with Wainhouse Research LLC, in Hyde Park, Utah. "They are sensing that the market is going to go to those who are able to create tools that integrate nicely into the workflow."

To be of value to enterprises, integrating voice into data applications will have to encompass presence awareness tools, Kelly said.

"If Im in an Oracle financials application, for example, and I want to make a voice call, what does it buy me if I end up getting voice mail?" he said. "When we begin adding collaborative capabilities to software or to the telephone, one of the main components is presence and presence management."

While Microsoft has a strong foothold in presence management with LCS, IBM also has a solid base with the widespread use of Lotus technologies, Kelly said.

As IT companies move into voice communications, they will have to avoid falling into the thicket of telephone regulatory requirements. Next year, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to issue comprehensive rules on VOIP, but so far, it has concluded that computer-to-computer calls arent subject to regulation, but VOIP calls flowing over the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) are. Once VOIP becomes a widespread replacement for traditional telephony, though, regulatory exemptions are likely to fade.

VOIP and its potential to displace traditional calling is upending tenuous regulatory structures that carriers have balanced for decades. Regulators are working to determine how social policies apply to IP-based calls. More urgently, however, carriers are struggling to bring VOIP providers into the system of payments they make to use each others networks. This line-sharing fee system, as well as other programs, supports a policy of affordable, basic phone service nationwide, known as Universal Service.

Regulators fear that Universal Service could collapse if large volumes of calls begin bypassing the fee structures imposed on calls that travel over the PSTN. The Universal Service program is of particular benefit to users in rural areas, whose representatives in Congress are key players on telecommunications matters. While the roster of regulatory issues surrounding VOIP is long and complicated, the matter of Universal Service is likely to spur action, sooner rather than later.

Extension of VOIP into Windows CE 5.0
  • Runs on a variety of voip-based devices, including wireless and desktop phones
  • Enables new telephony applications and tight integration with desktop and server applications
    "Istanbul" client for Live Communications Server
  • Integrates IM with telephony and video
  • Supports contextual collaboration
    Collaboration Suite Voicemail & Fax
  • Messages stored in Oracle9i Database as .wav files for voice mail or .tif files
  • Supports legacy voice systems and voip
  • Replaces third-party voice mail and calendar applications
    Collaboration Suite Wireless & Voice
  • Provides access to e-mail, voice mail, calendar and documents from any phone or PDA
  • Presence can be set when user leaves desk to streamline and manage communications
  • Sends alerts with time-sensitive information
    Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.


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