San Jose, Calif.—Microsoft at the VON 07 conference demonstrated a brand new phone system for small business that officials say overcomes the cost and complexity issues of traditional PBXes.
Microsoft teamed up with three hardware OEMs to deliver an offering which combines the functions of an IP PBX, Integrated Voice Response System and Messaging in a system called Syspine that is easy to install and administer.
Microsofts code-named Response Point software allows users to dial using voice commands and provides an auto-attendant. And it makes it simple for small business owners to administer the system to easily perform tasks such as adding a phone for new employees or creating a call distribution list.
"Only 30 percent of small businesses use a PBX. The rest havent got advanced phone systems because they require service providers to install them and they are very expensive," said Xuedong Huang, general manager of Microsofts MSR Incubation, an internal Microsoft "startup."
Microsoft, together with hardware OEMs Quanta Computer, D-Link and Uniden, hope to change that by delivering an appliance-based phone system that has no moving parts, is easy to install and provides "significant value," said Huang.
"Nobody has these speech functions, ease of use, and no need for a fan. We are broadening the addressable market. This is a breakthrough technology," he emphasized.
The appliance, now in beta testing, supports both VOIP (voice over IP) and traditional PSTN connections, uses a PC-based console for administrative functions, provides integrated messaging with Microsoft Outlook and allows voice mail-to-e-mail forwarding.
The system from Quanta Computer, dubbed the Syspine Phone System, includes an appliance that handles call functions along with dedicated phones that support both VOIP and PSTN. The appliance requires no phones and employs no moving parts.
"Power consumption was very important. We use an all-in-one chip set and processor together to reduce power consumption," said Mike Yang, vice president and general manager for Quantas Enterprise Solutions Business Unit in Taiwan.
The phones support advanced speech recognition capability and auto discovery. "Any cell phone can be an extension of the Quanta IP PBX to save money on toll calls and roaming," said Yang.
The Response Point-based system will begin Beta 2 testing early in April and ship later in 2007.
Microsofts Huang would not reveal pricing for the systems. "They will offer significant value," he offered.
Quantas Yang said the units will come with a one year warranty. He would not say how the Syspine Phone System will be distributed. D-Link will market it as the D-Link DVX-2000 and Uniden will market it as the Evolo.
Early beta testers at Iomedex, a Seattle-based company that markets emergency response software for patient tracking, found the Response Point appliance to be very easy to set up and use.
"The caller can direct themselves to an individual or group. Whats also nice is the integration with Outlook. Because you can attach voice messages to e-mail, you can grab voic email by checking e-mail," said Chris Gale, vice president of sales and delivery in Seattle.
Although Microsoft provided help in setting up the system for Iomedex, Gale believes it "would not be a major issue if we were to set it up from scratch," although Gale found it to be "a bit of a learning curve" to set up the auto attendant to direct and forward calls as they required.
Longer term, Iomedex would like to see additional functions such as creating alerts and call trees, as well as forwarding messages.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include comments from Iomedex.