Microsoft brought its combined instant-messaging and telephony client under the Office umbrella, renaming it Office Communicator 2005 and announcing plans to release it to manufacturing in the next 90 days.
On the server end, Microsofts Live Communications Server 2005 also is undergoing a revamp, Gates said. Microsoft in April plans to make a service pack available to the enterprise IM and presence server, which will support the new client and provide management features for federation and for controlling IM spam.
Also coming with the LCS update is the availability of the previously announced interoperability option with the three major IM networks—AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger.
Meanwhile, the 2005 version of Microsofts Live Meeting Web conferencing service is adding the ability to launch online meetings from Office applications and providing new audio and presenter controls. It is due for a March 11 release, Microsoft said.
"Were really getting to this vision of people getting to the information they care about when they want," said Gates, also chief software architect at the Redmond, Wash., company.
Across all its real-time communications products, Microsoft wants to focus on identity and presence information so users can find contacts, know whether they are available and then communicate using IM, VOIP (voice over IP), video or Web conferencing, Gates said.
"What we want to do is take identity and presence and put that at the center, and all these other ways of connecting are hooked up to that," Gates said.
As a client, Office Communicator 2005 will tie the various forms of communication together, Gates said. It will become Microsofts preferred client for enterprises running LCS and will support VOIP standards such as SIP as well as IP PBXes.
"Where we thought about the PC and the phone as very isolated devices, well think about those as a triumvirate," Gates said.
Office Communicator 2005 also will embed the ability to initiate communications into Office applications, Outlooks and Microsofts SharePoint Portal Server.
Microsoft executives demonstrated a range of its real-time communications products. Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president for real-time collaboration, displayed the Office Communicator 2005 client and conducted IM sessions and phones conversations through it.
Using Live Meeting, Gupta connected Microsoft executives by video in locations such as Los Angeles, Chicago, London and New York to demonstrate its capabilities. The executive producer of the NBC show "The Apprentice" and two of the reality shows previous participants also were on the Web and video conference.