Microsoft Updates Communicator Mobile 2007 R2

Microsoft has updated its Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile 2007 R2, its client for mobile devices connected to the Microsoft Office Communications Server, as it makes inroads into the increasingly competitive mobile space. In addition to updating its mobile client, Microsoft is also opening its upcoming Windows Marketplace for Mobile to developers wishing to submit applications for Windows Mobile 6.5. In doing so, Microsoft is seeking to build a robust mobile ecosystem to compete against companies such as Apple, Google and Research In Motion, even as CEO Steve Ballmer admits the company has made mistakes in its approach to mobile.

Microsoft announced updates to Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile 2007 R2, its client for keeping mobile devices more easily connected to the Microsoft Office Communications Server. The new features include joining conference calls with a single button-click, the ability to make calls from a work number even while out of the office, and the option to avoid roaming charges when outside a provider network.

The update can be downloaded via mobile phone from this site, or from the Microsoft Download Web site.

The updates come as Microsoft preps Communicator Mobile for integration with Windows Mobile 6.5, once the latter is released in the fall. In addition to allowing users to make an outbound call via their work number from their mobile device, the enhancement allows users to dial extension numbers for in-office colleagues.

The other updates are equally enterprise-centric; instead of relying on conference dial-ins and codes, users can click a single button in order to connect to any conferences scheduled through Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2.

Perhaps more important to SMBs (small-to-medium businesses) attempting to control costs, one update prevents the user's mobile device from logging onto a roaming network when outside of their provider's coverage. However, should the user be willing to accept those costs, the option can be switched off.

Microsoft has been pushing more aggressively into the mobile space as of late, despite admissions that some of the company's previous moves have been mistakes.

"Let me just say it was a tough year on succeeding in phones," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said during the annual financial analysts' meeting on July 30, who went on to characterize the errors were due to "mostly our own issues."

On July 27, the company announced that it is accepting application submissions for Windows Marketplace for Mobile, its store for Windows Mobile smartphone applications. By the time the Marketplace launches in fall 2009, Microsoft plans to have 600 applications available, as well as a dedicated section for business applications. In addition to Windows Mobile 6.5, the store will also support applications for Windows Mobile 6.0 and 6.1.

Microsoft is hoping that it can build a strong ecosystem that will allow it to compete for market-share against already-established mobile competitors such as Apple, Research In Motion, Google and others. At stake are the enormous number of applications downloads, which a recent report from Juniper Research predicted would hit 20 billion annually by 2014.