Microsoft Disconnects Response Point VOIP Product

Microsoft is discontinuing its Response Point phone system software, which businesses of up to 50 people could use to manage a complex phone system and make calls via VOIP. Microsoft says the shutdown is due to slow sales. Originally launched in 2007, Response Point offered services such as after-hours receptionist settings, and hardware was sold through Microsoft's OEM partners. Microsoft will discontinue sales, support and development on Aug. 31, but businesses will be able to use the system past that point, per their purchaser agreements.

Microsoft has made what it called the "tough decision" to terminate its Response Point phone system software, which used voice over IP to save small and midsize businesses money on their communications bills. Although Microsoft marketed the product as an ideal way for businesses of up to 50 employees to cut costs in a moribund economy, sales were lackluster.

"Despite favorable initial response from customers and channel partners since launch, we have not seen the necessary demand materialize to sustain Response Point as a viable stand-alone business," said a note on Microsoft's Response Point Website. "To continue to support the needs of the small business community, we expect to consolidate our efforts and offerings in this space around Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS)."

Originally launched in 2007, the VOIP-based Response Point offered SMBs a number of ways to maintain a phone system without enterprise IT support. The software provided streamlined configuration wizards, automatic voice mail setup, after-hours receptionist settings, voice-activated commands and tools such as Call History. A number of OEMs, including Quanta, eventually partnered with Microsoft to offer Ethernet-enabled handsets and other hardware.

Microsoft updated Response Point with two Service Packs, which added functions such as the ability to make two-way intercom calls. Nonetheless, a series of 2009 layoffs culled much of the Microsoft Response Point team, leading to the expectation that the product would ultimately be killed.

"After transitioning Microsoft Response Point to engineering maintenance status a year ago, Microsoft made the decision to discontinue the sale, support and development of the Response Point phone system for small businesses, effective Aug. 31, 2010," the note on Microsoft's Website said. "Customers will be able to continue to use their Response Point product(s) as per their equipment manufacturer purchase agreement."

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Had it survived, Response Point would likely have faced increased competition in the VOIP space over the coming months. On May 18, Google agreed to purchase GIPS (Global IP Solutions) for $68.2 million. GIPS makes software for processing high-definition audio and video over the Web, and the purchase is seen as a way for Google to build a VOIP platform that allows it to compete against Skype, the VOIP leader in the consumer market. Given the number of SMBs that use consumer VOIP tools, it's likely that Response Point would have had to greatly accelerate the growth of its customer base in order to maintain a market position.