Microsoft Moves on VOIP

Microsoft launched its first VOIP (voice-over-IP) support in its Windows CE .Net embedded real-time operating system.

Microsoft Corp. yesterday launched its first VOIP (voice-over-IP) support in its Windows CE .Net embedded real-time operating system.

Windows CE .Net 4.2, due out by July, focuses on support for VOIP phones or other VOIP devices with three main components. The first includes a Telephony User Interface (TUI) with a suite of voice applications, including a dialer that provides speed-dial, call transfer, hang up and other call control functions. The second major component is a VOIP Application Interface Layer (VAIL) that supports the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP).

The third component includes "enterprise integration technologies to allow enterprises to deploy managed VOIP phones or devices," described Scott Horn, director of the embedded and appliance platforms group at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash. The technologies allow developers to create Visual Basic applications that can run on a Windows CE VOIP phone. They also provide support for Microsofts Active Directory to allow VOIP phones to be catalogued as part of a corporate address book as well as support for Microsofts Systems Management Server to allow new images to be deployed to the phones from a central management station.

Microsoft also included support for Kerberos and WiFi security protocols.

Lining up behind the VOIP news were a handful of OEMs developing VOIP devices that will use the Windows CE VOIP capabilities, including BCM Computers Co. Ltd, Casio Computer Company Ltd., Hitachi Ltd., NEC Infrontia Corp., Samsung Electronics, Tatung Co. and Symbol Technologies Inc., which is adding voice capabilities to its handheld scanners to allow them to also operate as walkie talkies over a secure WiFi connection. The first products to market are expected in the second half of this year.

To reduce time to market, Microsoft is also working with a handful of chip manufacturers to optimize their CPUs and build reference designs for VOIP devices running Windows CE .Net. Those include Advanced Micros Devices Inc., ARM Ltd., Conexant Systems Inc., Intel Corp., MIPS Technologies Inc., Texas Instruments and Broadcom Corp., which is using the Microsoft SIP call stack and VAIL to integrate its echo cancellation software into a two-line, text-display VOIP phone.

With Microsofts weight behind a single implementation of VOIP protocols such as SIP, and with its ability to easily integrate with other applications, its move could go a long way toward insuring interoperability of different vendors equipment, believes Vijay Bhagavath, telecommunications analyst with Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

"Instead of each vendor doing their own SIP implementation, Microsoft provides that industry standard consistency. There will be a lot more opportunity for interoperability," he said. "Beyond IP telephony, the next step (with VOIP) is communication business application integration, so that when someone calls, you get the equivalent of a call center experience at your desktop. With access to business critical information (through integrated applications) at your fingertips, you can make more instant business decisions. This has a lot of mobility implications," he added.

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