Qwest Communications International Inc. plans to be the first telephone carrier to integrate Microsoft Corp.s software for enhancing voice over IP, aiming to make the combined technology available to small and midsize businesses next year.
The partnership illustrates a web of combined efforts made between the traditional telephone sector and the IT sector to make VOIP a more attractive calling option for businesses.
Microsoft unveiled its solution for enhanced VOIP services earlier this year in a joint project with Sylantro Systems Corp., of Campbell, Calif. The system combines hosted versions of Microsoft server products, such as Exchange Server 2003, Live Communications Server 2005 and Windows SharePoint Services, with Sylantros Application Feature Server.
Now, the Redmond, Wash., software maker will unite that joint technology with Qwests OneFlex Hosted VOIP, which launched last fall. The integration was designed to enable Qwest to provide more advanced converged voice and data services to the SMB market.
The goal is to give SMBs the kinds of converged networking options that only large enterprises typically enjoy, by offering those options on a hosted basis. Together, the companies technologies will provide services that combine VOIP, e-mail, instant messaging, collaboration and presence, among other desktop functions.
Not all small businesses are excited about the prospect of having their telephony intertwined with the nearly ubiquitous Microsoft technology on the desktop, however.
"As a rule, at the moment the phone works when I pick it up. I tend to count pretty heavily upon that. The idea that my phone set might crash and require rebooting doesnt do a lot to cheer me up," said Gilbert Austin, president of CoreTechs Consulting Inc., in Silver Spring, Md. "In general, the idea of Microsoft getting their dirty little paws into another area of the infrastructure that runs this planet is probably not a good thing."
However, for small businesses that do want to switch to converged voice and data services, the integrated OneFlex service from Qwest could reduce the inconvenience of dealing with providers because there would be just one, Austin said.