SAN JOSE, Calif.—With its Office Live Communications Server 2003 ready to launch next week, Microsoft Corp. is prepping a series of new features to extend presence capabilities, add interoperability among enterprises and build in conferencing to the real-time collaboration platform.
Speaking at the Instant Messaging Planet Fall 2003 Conference and Expo here, Gurdeep Singh Pall, Microsofts general manager of real time collaboration, said that while the initial focus for Live Communications Server 2003 is on corporate instant messaging and presence, it will serve as a platform for the broader convergence of real-time communications.
“Instant messaging and presence is an important capability, but theyre part of a bigger picture,” he said. “Two to three years down the road a better proposition will come along.”
Office Live Communications Server 2003, a project formerly code-named “Greenwich,” is set to formally launch during next weeks Microsoft Office 2003 unveiling in New York.
Presence, the ability to know when someone else is online, is one of the major features being pushed in enterprise IM. Live Communications Server integrates presence throughout the Office productivity suite so that a user can, for example, see if another users is available and then launch Windows Messenger for an IM session from within an Office application, said Ed Simnett, lead product manager at Microsoft.
Microsoft plans in the “near term” to further extend presence in the product to allow group presence, Singh Pall said. Group presence would enable a user in Outlook, for example, to send an instant message to members of a group distribution list, he said.
Along with being able to launch such a group session, group presence also would allow a group to be represented by a single icon and appear present even with only one member is online, Simnett explained.
Microsoft Looks Towards Broader
Presence and IM, though, wont reach their full potential until there is broad interoperability, so enterprises can connect both to one another and with the major consumer IM networks from Microsofts MSN, America Online Inc. and Yahoo Inc., Singh Pall said.
“We are probably one of the few industries that can sell communications solutions and not allow you to talk to everybody,” Singh Pall told attendees. “We have to do better.”
Microsoft does have a separate service called MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises that allows Live Communications Server to connect with MSN Messenger users, but it doesnt connect with any other broad IM networks.
Singh Pall said interoperability is a topic in 80 percent of his discussions with customers and that Microsoft is committed to work with AOL and Yahoo. He wouldnt discuss whether any discussions have been held.
More immediately, Microsoft by the middle of 2004 plans to enable enterprise-to-enterprise interoperability for Live Communications Server, Singh Pall said. The server product would essentially play the role of an edge proxy server to federate presence and allow for management different rights and privileges, Simnett said.
Also coming soon will be integration between Microsofts Live Meeting 2003 Web conferencing service and Live Communications Server so that conferences can be initiated from Windows Messenger, Simnett said. Live Meeting 2003, launched last month, came out of Microsofts acquisition of PlaceWare Inc.
Even while the current Live Communications Server integrates with Office, it still requires the separate launching of the Windows Messenger client to conduct an IM session. Further out, Microsoft is planning to build many of the IM capabilities directly into Office applications so users can conduct real-time communications without moving to another client, Singh Pall said.
“Were moving to scenarios where all devices and networks are coming together,” he said.
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