The upstart voice application companies gunning for the enterprise and the service provider market have had one unified mantra: Become the Microsoft of voice. So what happens when Microsoft decides its going to be the Microsoft of voice-over-Internet Protocol as well?
Its a concept that had not been widely considered — at least not until the recent Voice on the Net conference, where Microsoft usually has a minuscule presence.
This year, the software giant was showing off its SIP Server and SIP Client, which will roll out next year along with the anticipated Windows XP platform. SIP, which stands for Session Initiation Protocol, is a standard for controlling voice communications over a packet network.
The Microsoft applications are so new that a company spokesman at the booth commented that hed been working on the code for them over the weekend.
SIP Server will act as a voice applications platform and control communications across an enterprise, much like todays private branch exchanges (PBXs). SIP Client will act like a softphone on the PC, similar to Microsofts NetMeeting client, which used H.323 as a standard and never achieved widespread adoption.
The SIP Client interface looks like MSN Instant Messenger, where someone can tell if a co-worker is online or not. The user can then query for a chat, IP phone call or video session using PC cameras. Programmers can layer their own features on the platform, developing their applications just like they would for any Windows operating system.
Microsofts newfound presence at the March show definitely caused some tremors, with competitors asking the giants representatives if they should be worried.
Probably not. Microsoft is going after businesses. "Think of IIS [Internet Information Services, Microsofts Web server]," said Ike Elliot, a senior vice president at Level 3 Communications. "Service providers still prefer to use Unix and Apache as their Web servers, while enterprises are the ones that buy a Windows-based platform like IIS."
The companies that should really be worried are those designing next-generation PBXs, such as 3Com, Cisco Systems and Siemens, observers said. While Microsofts SIP Server could sit alongside a PBX, some Windows-friendly enterprises may choose to forgo the PBX altogether.