Microsoft Sets Collaboration Timeline

The software giant is expected to unfurl its road map for its collaboration products at two upcoming events.

Microsoft is readying a host of new collaboration-specific software and service offerings that it is planning to deliver over the next two years, according to a timeline that company officials are showing privately to partners.

During the past couple of months, Microsoft has shared selectively with certain partners a "collaboration road map," according to sources who requested anonymity. Beyond the Office 2007 client and SharePoint Server 2007 products—which are slated to be available to business users in October and to launch via all channels in January 2007—other collaboration deliverables on Microsofts shortlist include a new Office Live Server, a slew of Antigen anti-virus services and a souped-up anti-spam package.

Microsoft is expected to share details on some of these offerings during two June events. On June 6, the Redmond, Wash., company is slated to go public, via a Webcast, with its business intelligence product road map. And on June 26, Microsoft will provide more details about its collaborative communication wares during a Unified Communications Group event for the press and analysts in San Francisco.

Microsoft announced the creation of a single internal Unified Communications Group—comprising the formerly separate Exchange and Real-Time Collaboration teams—in January. The group is headed by Anoop Gupta, who previously headed the Real-Time Collaboration team. UCG is part of the Microsoft Business Division under President Jeff Raikes. The group is leading Microsofts charge in e-mail, instant messaging, VOIP (voice over IP) and Web conferencing for business users.

Guptas collaboration effort will dovetail with what Microsofts Office team is building on the Office 2007 and SharePoint 2007 fronts. Leading that charge on Office are Antoine LeBlond and Kurt DelBene.

On May 31, Microsoft announced that LeBlond is the new head of the Office Productivity Applications group, which will be charged with Office client and shared services such as Office Live. DelBene will run the newly minted Office Business Platform group and oversee SharePoint, Groove and Project.

According to partners, Microsofts collaboration road map calls for the company to ship the following deliverables sometime during the latter half of 2006:

• Microsoft Client Protection, the business equivalent to its just-launched Windows One-Care SMB/consumer security service security and backup service;

• Microsoft Antigen for SharePoint, an anti-virus software or

service for its collaboration server;

• Microsoft Antigen for Instant Messaging, an anti-virus service for Office Communicator;

• Microsoft Antigen for Exchange, an anti-virus service for e-mail;

• Microsoft Advanced Spam Manager, a refreshed version of an anti-spam offering based on Sybari Software technology; and

• Business Scorecard Manager Version "Next," which is part of Microsofts "BizSharp" family of Office BI applications.

Antigen is the brand name that Microsoft has been using for the past year for products and technologies that the company acquired in February 2005 when it bought Sybari.

BizSharp, or Biz#, is the code name for a family of business scorecarding and analytics applications under development by Microsofts Office Business Applications team. According to Microsoft officials, the company is looking to extend its BI interface to both Microsoft and third-party business applications as part of the Biz# initiative.

According to partners, on the list of collaboration deliverables for 2007, in addition to Windows Longhorn Server and Exchange 2007 Server, partners said, are:

• Live Meeting Version 8, the next release of Microsofts Web conferencing service; and

• Microsoft Office Live Server, the next version of the product currently named Live Communications Server.

In 2005, Microsoft confirmed plans to fold Live Meeting conferencing capabilities into the next version of Live Communications Server. In addition to on-premises Web conferencing, the soon-to-be-rebranded Office Live Server will deliver multipoint audio/video and business-process integration functionality, company officials confirmed in July 2005.

Does this mean that the stand-alone Live Meeting products days are numbered? It doesnt seem so.

When asked in late March by Microsoft Watch about the future of Live Meeting, Raikes said, "A year from now, Live Meeting could be our best example of our combined software/

service vision. Customers could choose between meetings on premises or housed in a cloud."