Microsoft Readies Next Wave of Real-Time Collaboration Products

In the pipeline is a new version of Live Communications Server that will deliver on-premise Web conferencing.

The next wave of Microsoft Corp.s Real-Time Collaboration unit products, slated for 2006, is coming into clearer focus.

On the road map are new RTC client, server and services offerings, according to company officials, who outlined the divisions plans during a recent Microsoft Webcast.

The forthcoming RTC lineup includes "Next Gen Server," the next release of Microsofts Live Communications Server corporate instant messaging server product; "Next Gen Communicator," the next release of the Office Communicator IM client; and Live Meeting 8, the next release of its Web conferencing software.

Microsoft officials and third-party partners had been hinting that Microsoft was building a server-based version of its Office Live Meeting Web/video conferencing software. It turns out, instead, that Microsoft is planning to build Live Meeting conferencing capabilities directly into Next Gen Server.

In addition to on-premise Web conferencing, Next Gen Server also will deliver multipoint audio/video and business-process integration functionality, company officials confirmed.

Next Gen Communicator (the version that follows the recently unveiled Communicator Web client and soon-to-be-released Communicator Mobile Client) will provide group IM, rich presence and ad-hoc meeting functionality.

When asked whether Microsoft is looking to build Next Gen Communicator into Windows Vista (Longhorn), Microsoft officials have been noncommittal in their answers. Windows XP currently ships with Windows Messenger, one of Microsofts three IM clients.

But Microsoft recently demonstrated a Vista feature, known as Meeting Space, that allowed users to set up meetings on the fly. For now, Microsoft officials are not saying whether the ad-hoc meeting capability is coming from the RTC division.

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