Mobile communications will also be far more seamless, Raikes said, adding that this experience will be consistent across all devices and put the user at the center of their communications experience. With regard to making unified communications even more convenient and integrated, he said this has to be convenient and in context, integrated with collaboration tools, and on a rich, standards based platform that allows a broad partner ecosystem.Microsoft has announced 34 Office suites, programs, servers, services and tools13 of which are newthat form part of its 2007 Microsoft Office family of products. Click here to read more. Flexile and trustworthy unified communications mean there has to be breakthrough software and service economics as well as a flexible, integrated and efficient infrastructure where users have a single identity stored in a single directory, thereby reducing complexity and increasing efficiency within the organization. "This has to be a trusted, secure and reliable platform," he said. Raikes also announced some new products and Microsofts latest unified communications product roadmap. This includes Office Communications Server 2007, Office Communicator 2007, and the next-generation of OfficeLive Meeting, which will all be available by the second quarter of 2007. Microsoft in May unveiled the third update to its Center for Information Work, a prototype facility dedicated to exploring how future software developments could empower information workers going forward. Click here to read more. Anoop Gupta, the corporate vice president of Microsofts Unified Communications Group, joined Raikes on stage to demonstrate seamless call management and an innovative soft-phone experience, placing a call from within a document to show a PC-to-phone call experience. Earlier this year the Exchange and Real-Time Collaboration groups were merged into a single unit known as the Unified Communications Group. Click here to read more. This new unified communications experience would also be accessible anywhere, on any device, and a consistent experience will be provided across the PC, Web and mobile devices, he said. Gupta also showed some of the unified messaging features in Exchange Server 2007, demonstrating how Outlook voice manager allows users to dial in and access their calendar and then make changes that are transmitted to all the other meeting attendees. The next version of OfficeLive Meeting will also support multimedia like video and Flash, Gupta said, adding that the goal of the new unified communications strategy is to provide a consistent communications experience that leverages the customers existing enterprise infrastructure, making it simple to manage and lowering costs. "This is all about making communications more personal, intuitive and connected," he said. Microsoft also announced new business alliances with HP, Motorola and Siemens. HP will be providing hardware devices and systems integration services for new and enhanced products based on Microsofts unified communications platform. For its part, Motorola will deliver mobile devices and network hardware based on Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator Mobile, while Siemens will advance the transformation of telephony, audio-, video- and Web-conferencing, instant messaging and e-mail into a single unified communications platform, Raikes said. Rob Rasmussen, the vice president of consulting and integration at HP, took to the stage and said that as a service company there are tremendous opportunities for HP to take this unified communications package to its customers. "We are also very excited about the ways in which some of these new communication experiences and technologies can be integrated into real-time business processes," he said. Next up was Bob Gentile, the general manager of enterprise software at Motorola, who said seamless mobility is the top priority for the company. He said he welcomes the new capabilities in Microsofts new unified communications vision, saying that Motorola will be able to take these and run with them. But Microsoft could not drive this unified communications vision without new innovation in telephony, Raikes said, announcing that new software would be embedded in a new generation of IP phones. "We are working with LG-Nortel, Polycom and Thomson to bring out a set of phones that will bring the Office Communicator experience to the next generation of IP phones," he said. In conclusion, Raikes said that while Microsoft offers scheduling and e-mail, Web conferencing, presence and availability, enterprise IM and remote call control today, it will be significantly expanding these capabilities over the next year. He also told attendees that they could lay the foundation for unified communications today by having a single user identity stored in a single directory, and letting them have presence and instant messaging, messaging and scheduling. "You can then begin your evaluations of the future by evaluating the Exchange Server 2007 beta, he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
"Microsoft Office is increasingly becoming the platform where all this takes place," Raikes said.