Microsoft Makes VOIP Move with Istanbul

The company attempts to gain a toehold in the VOIP market with its new IM client for Live Communications Server.

BOSTON—Microsoft Corp. moved deeper into the telephony and voice-over-IP market Tuesday with "Istanbul," its integrated instant messaging and telephony client for its Live Communications Server product.

Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president in Microsofts Real-Time Collaboration Business Unit, formally announced Istanbul during his Tuesday morning keynote at the VON show here. He described Microsofts vision of pervasive real-time collaboration, universally available with intuitive interfaces, across devices and networks, and governed by privacy controls.

Speaking before a large community of enterprise IT managers, telephony platform vendors, developers and service providers, Gupta set the stage for the announcement by describing how it would help information workers to integrate resources such as instant messaging, Web conferencing, e-mail, streaming video, and voice messaging; the shared workspaces of threaded discussions, document repositories and shared calendars; and search tools for people, data and expertise.

Many of these pieces map more or less precisely to existing Microsoft products and services. A shared document workspace is provided by Microsofts SharePoint product, for example, while hosted Web collaboration is available via Microsofts Live Meeting service. All of these work together with LCS (Live Communications Server) to create a continuum of communication choices, Gupta said.

A quick look at the Istanbul client showed instant messaging integrated with a search function that located a fellow employee. The search returned not only a clickable name for dialing or IM-ing, but also that persons presence and availability status. IP PBX manufacturers such as Alcatel and Mitel have already accomplished similar IM-voice-video integration with presence information.

On the incoming side, a call to a PBX extension associated with an Istanbul client showed not only caller ID in a popup window, but also controls for forwarding that call to a cell phone in real time. Here, the enterprise PBXs own call-forwarding features were being invoked through LCS.

/zimages/6/28571.gifAnalysts call Microsofts move into the VOIP market a natural progression. Click here to read more.

Gupta also showed Istanbul embedded in common Microsoft applications, including Outlook. When users receive an e-mail, they can see the senders presence status, and can then click to speak with that sender over IP or via a gateway into a time-division multiplexing PBX. He also showed the client running within a spreadsheet and an Internet portal.

"I can launch a Web conferencing application directly from an application. I can make a persistent meeting place inside a portal. Content from previous meetings is preserved inside that portal," he said.

Gupta said that LCS will accept calls from any SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)/SIMPLE (SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions)-compatible switch, and that Istanbul will work without VPN tunneling into a corporate LAN.

Istanbul is interoperable with MSN, as well as America Online Inc. and Yahoo Inc.s IM networks, allowing the 350 million registered subscribers to these IM services to access at least some of LCS communications features, Gupta said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifRead more here about Microsofts deal with AOL and Yahoo to allow its enterprise IM server to interconnect with the companies IM services.

One LCS 2005 server is scalable for up to 100,000 users, he said. It provides a common digital rights structure and a common management of access to communications, regardless of device. These include cell phones and extensions to both traditional and IP PBXs. Siemens was the first to integrate its PBX with the server; Gupta invited other vendors to follow, and said that LCS could also interface to IP PBXes and VOIP services in the cloud.

He also alluded to integrations with other application developers. Looking at it from SAPs perspective, he said, "Whose API do I hook into? Avaya? Siemens? Nortel?" He suggested LCS as a standards-based platform on which to build these integrations.

In closing, Gupta appealed to PBX vendors to help solve software integration challenges. "We need a sophisticated ecosystem surrounding this. We dont build PBXes," he said. "The whole communication space is at an inflection point, and we see a huge opportunity for customers and partners to benefit from this disruptive change."

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