Microsoft Unveils Unified Communications Vision, Strategy, Roadmap

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-06-26 Print this article Print

The Redmond software maker is introducing voice technologies to its current lineup, developing new products and expanding the unified communications features its current products provide, as well as offering services itself and in association with its par

SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft is taking on both the challenges and opportunities that exist around the current unified communications platform and product lineup. To do this, the Redmond software maker is introducing voice technologies to its current lineup, developing new products and expanding the unified communications features its current products provide, as well as offering services itself and in association with its partners.
In a two-hour presentation at an event here in San Francisco on June 26, Jeff Raikes, the president of the Microsoft Business Division, presented his vision for Microsofts unified messaging strategy and product roadmap of the future.
"This new world of work has people at its core, and they are assisted by the software we provide to simplify the way they work together, especially across organizations and countries," he said, adding that communication choices have expanded, leading to communications chaos. "There are also just too many devices out there, and workers do not have enough time to deal with the complexity associated with all of this. This wealth of devices and connectivity is also putting strain on IT administrators," he said. The PC environment had seen a lot more innovation from a software perspective than the desktop phone, and PC innovation has improved the richness of that experience, Raikes said, noting that significant challenges and opportunities lie ahead in the unified communications field. The complexity of the user experience remains a big challenge, with research showing that the average organization has 6.4 types of different communication devices and 4.8 communications applications, resulting in infrastructure islands, he said. The real opportunities for unified communications lie on the productivity front, around collaboration and better business results, while meetings remain an area of great opportunity and challenge, he said, noting that the virtual meeting experience "should and could" be even better than actually being present at that meeting. Raikes then gave a demonstration of the Microsoft Office RoundTable, an audio-video collaboration device with a 360-degree camera, expected to be released in the first half of 2007, that, when combined with Office Communications Server 2007, delivers an immersive conferencing experience that extends the meeting environment across multiple locations. Click here to view a slide show of Microsofts technologies of the future. Meeting participants on-site and in remote locations will get a panoramic view of everyone in the conference room as well as close-up views of individual participants as they take turns speaking, he said. RoundTable would revolutionize the meeting experience, Raikes said, adding that unified communications is essentially connecting workers seamlessly, where they have a single identity stored in a single directory and in a way that is rich, contextual and standards-based. "Microsoft is uniquely positioned given our existing deep investments in communications across our products, and today we are showing the significant additional investments we have made to make this even more convenient and integrated, personal, intuitive, flexible and trustworthy," he said. Under the banner of a more personal and intuitive experience, the communication has to be based on presence and have a richer and more intuitive experience, so that a call can be initiated and automatically connected so the user does not have to set it up and then have all participants dial in. Next Page: Unified communications.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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