Microsoft to Take Wraps Off Unified Messaging Strategy

Microsoft is set to unveil a plan to integrate voice technologies with the communications and collaboration experiences the software maker already provides.

Microsoft is set to unveil a plan to integrate voice technologies with the communications and collaboration experiences the Redmond, Wash., software maker already provides.

The new plan is part of Microsofts latest vision for unified communications and will be unveiled by Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division, at an event in San Francisco June 26.

/zimages/7/28571.gifEarlier this year, Microsofts Exchange and Real-Time Collaboration groups were merged into a single unit known as the Unified Communications Group. Click here to read more.

Microsoft will also announce new and enhanced unified communications technologies as part of the Microsoft Office 2007 system.

The company plans to bring together its Exchange Server corporate e-mail offering and Office Outlook and Speech Server, along with updated versions of its real-time collaboration technologies and a set of new communications devices, to form a cohesive unified communications solution.

Unified messaging in Exchange Server 2007, expected to ship in late 2006 or early 2007, will deliver a unified in-box experience that includes e-mail, voice mail and faxing functionality, as well as new capabilities such as speech-based auto attendant allowing users to access their communications from any phone. (Click here to read an interview with Raikes on the companys approach to the emerging market for real-time business communications.)

For its part, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 is an SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) standards-based real-time communication platform that enables presence-based VOIP (voice over IP) call management; audio, video and Web conferencing; and instant messaging communication within and across existing software applications, services and devices, and is expected to ship in late 2006.

That product works in tandem with Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 to deliver a presence-based, enterprise VOIP "soft phone"; secure, enterprise-grade instant messaging that allows for intercompany federation and connectivity to public instant messaging networks such as MSN, AOL and Yahoo; one-to-one and multiparty video and audio conferencing; and Web conferencing. The product will be available for the desktop, browser and Windows Mobile.

/zimages/7/28571.gifMicrosoft has announced 34 Office suites, programs, servers, services and tools—13 of which are new—that form part of its 2007 Microsoft Office family of products. Click here to read more.

In addition, Microsoft Office Communicator phone software for running an innovative set of new voice and video devices is designed to run on dedicated communications devices in tandem with Office Communications Server 2007 to extend and enhance the Microsoft unified communications experience. It is slated to ship in the second quarter of 2007.

The new unified communications product lineup is rounded off by PC peripheral devices like USB handsets, wireless USB headsets, USB Webcams and PC monitors with built-in audio and video components.

Devices from industry partners GN Netcom, Logitech, Motorola, Plantronics, Samsung and Tatung will work with Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 to deliver the communication experience on the PC, Raikes said.

"We believe that our approach to unified communications will break down todays silos of e-mail, instant messaging, mobile and [VOIP] telephony, and audio, video and Web conferencing. We believe that through software we can transform business communications by now integrating voice communications with the familiar and powerful communications and collaboration experiences provided by Microsoft," he said.

/zimages/7/28571.gifMicrosoft in May unveiled the third update to its Center for Information Work, a prototype facility dedicated to exploring how future software developments could empower information workers going forward. Click here to read more.

Microsoft will also announce new business alliances with Hewlett-Packard, Motorola and Siemens, with HP providing hardware devices and systems integration services for new and enhanced products based on Microsofts unified communications platform.

Motorola will deliver mobile devices and network hardware based on Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator Mobile, and Siemens will advance the transformation of telephony; audio, video and Web conferencing; instant messaging; and e-mail into a single unified communications platform, Raikes said.

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