SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft is taking on both the challenges and opportunities that exist around the current unified communications platform and product lineup.
To do this, the Redmond software maker is introducing voice technologies to its current lineup, developing new products and expanding the unified communications features its current products provide, as well as offering services itself and in association with its partners.
In a two-hour presentation at an event here in San Francisco on June 26, Jeff Raikes, the president of the Microsoft Business Division, presented his vision for Microsofts unified messaging strategy and product roadmap of the future.
"This new world of work has people at its core, and they are assisted by the software we provide to simplify the way they work together, especially across organizations and countries," he said, adding that communication choices have expanded, leading to communications chaos.
"There are also just too many devices out there, and workers do not have enough time to deal with the complexity associated with all of this. This wealth of devices and connectivity is also putting strain on IT administrators," he said.
The PC environment had seen a lot more innovation from a software perspective than the desktop phone, and PC innovation has improved the richness of that experience, Raikes said, noting that significant challenges and opportunities lie ahead in the unified communications field.
The complexity of the user experience remains a big challenge, with research showing that the average organization has 6.4 types of different communication devices and 4.8 communications applications, resulting in infrastructure islands, he said.
The real opportunities for unified communications lie on the productivity front, around collaboration and better business results, while meetings remain an area of great opportunity and challenge, he said, noting that the virtual meeting experience "should and could" be even better than actually being present at that meeting.
Raikes then gave a demonstration of the Microsoft Office RoundTable, an audio-video collaboration device with a 360-degree camera, expected to be released in the first half of 2007, that, when combined with Office Communications Server 2007, delivers an immersive conferencing experience that extends the meeting environment across multiple locations.
Click hereto view a slide show of Microsofts technologies of the future.
Meeting participants on-site and in remote locations will get a panoramic view of everyone in the conference room as well as close-up views of individual participants as they take turns speaking, he said.
RoundTable would revolutionize the meeting experience, Raikes said, adding that unified communications is essentially connecting workers seamlessly, where they have a single identity stored in a single directory and in a way that is rich, contextual and standards-based.
"Microsoft is uniquely positioned given our existing deep investments in communications across our products, and today we are showing the significant additional investments we have made to make this even more convenient and integrated, personal, intuitive, flexible and trustworthy," he said.
Under the banner of a more personal and intuitive experience, the communication has to be based on presence and have a richer and more intuitive experience, so that a call can be initiated and automatically connected so the user does not have to set it up and then have all participants dial in.