Microsoft announces the next version of its unified communications software, code-named Communications Server 14, at VoiceCon Orlando. The platform will provide full enterprise telephony and allows embedded communications and the use of tools such as instant messaging, in what Microsoft is touting as a complete enterprise communications package. Analysts predict that UC could become a $14.5 billion market by 2015, making it an attractive prize for companies such as IBM and Microsoft.
Microsoft announced Communications Server "14," the next version
of the company's unified communications software, at the VoiceCon Orlando conference
on March 24. The platform, which will provide holistic enterprise telephony and
allow customers to embed communications within applications, will be available
in the second half of 2010.
On top of those features, Communications Server 14 will introduce a
Communicator client that interoperates with Microsoft Office, Microsoft
SharePoint Server and Microsoft Exchange. It will allow enterprise workers to use
instant messaging and other on-premises and cloud-based software to communicate
and collaborate on projects.
Communications Server 14 will also offer a "skill search feature"
that will allow workers to be located based on their expertise, notify the
searcher when those workers are available and pinpoint their locations.
Given Microsoft's position as a software creator, it's perhaps inevitable
that the company would use the announcement to emphasize what it sees as
software's rising place in enterprise communications. In a February 2009
report, analyst company Forrester estimated that the overall UC market could be
worth about $14.5 billion by 2015.
"Communications centered solely around the desk phone and built on
hardware-based systems are quickly becoming a relic of the past," Gurdeep
Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Unified Communications
Group, wrote in a March
24 post on the official Microsoft blog.
"Even in this nomadic world a
mobile phone is not sufficient-neither is it rich enough for collaborative
work, nor are companies willing to reimburse upwards of $600 a year per employee
for their mobile bill."
In the near future, Pall predicted, business communication and collaboration
will increasingly become a matter of unified platforms based on software,
integrating products such as IP phones, survivable branch appliances and accounting
"Three years from now, new applications written by corporate
developers, system integrators and software vendors will be
communications-enabled by default," Pall wrote. "We predict that
three out of every four new business applications will include embedded
communications. I'm confident these predictions describe the future of unified
Pall also predicted that UC will become "the norm in business
communications" within the next three years, with more than half of VOIP (voice
over IP) calls at work coming to include "more than just voice."
That could be good news for Microsoft and for other companies such as IBM
that are making investments in UC. IBM plans
to capitalize on the growth potential of UC with platforms such as Lotus
Sametime, which integrates voice, video and data for services such as
enterprise IM, online meeting capabilities and telephony.