This new combined group will be led by Anoop Gupta, the current corporate vice president of the Real-Time Collaboration group, and will become part of Microsofts Business Division, which is led by president Jeff Raikes.
But the move would have no impact on the timing or feature sets for the next generation of products currently under development, including Exchange 12, a Microsoft spokesperson said Jan. 30, adding that the reorganization "is part of Microsofts commitment to effectively align the company and its three distinct business units. This is an effort we began in September."
But, while Microsoft is identifying the Unified Communications Group as a new entity, a smaller UCG team has been operating inside the company for some time, according to sources claiming familiarity with Microsofts plans.
The original UCG has been working on a hosted real-time-collaboration suite that will likely include e-mail, unified messaging, instant messaging, VOIP (voice over IP) and data-conferencing capabilities all rolled into a single bundle, sources have told Microsoft Watch.
Such a bundle would not be unprecedented. Microsoft is building up its family of hosted SMB offerings.
Windows OneCare Live—the hosted security service (composed of firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware and data-backup functionality)—is an example of one such service.
The sources said the UCG was planning to target SMBs who are interested in an integrated communications experience that will be managed by others—most likely Microsoft partners (or maybe even Microsoft itself).
Microsoft will pitch the hosted bundle as an easy way for smaller companies to enjoy features such as intelligent call routing, auto-attendant voice response, and the like.
When asked last year about the UCGs plans for a hosted real-time collaboration suite, a Microsoft spokesperson said: "While Microsoft believes that businesses both large and small can benefit from unified, real-time communications, we dont have a product as you describe to announce at this time."
The latest move made sense as customers seek an integrated communications experience that enables them to communicate intuitively and seamlessly, from e-mail to instant messaging, VOIP, and audio/video/Web conferencing, the spokesperson said.
"The merger of the teams aligns our efforts internally and allows us to more rapidly and effectively address these customer needs. This new organization will aggressively drive forward and sustain the momentum of existing Exchange and RTC businesses," the spokesperson said.
Microsoft has also posted a question and answer with Gupta on the Microsoft PressPass site.
Additional reporting by Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft Watch.