Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division, today unveiled the company's vision, technology road map and partner framework for unified communications at a strategy event in San Francisco. Microsoft Corp.'s approach to unified communications will break down today's silos of E-Mail, instant messaging, mobile and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) telephony and audio-, video- and webconferencing. Through software, Microsoft and its partners will put people at the center of communications through a single identity across all modes and integrate communication into people's everyday work processes, including the widely used Microsoft Office system and third-party software applications.
"Unified communications will drive the next major advancement in
individual, team and organizational productivity in today's 24x7,
always-connected and increasingly mobile work environment," Raikes said. "We
believe that through software, we can transform business communications
(bringing down both its cost and complexity) by now integrating voice
communications with the familiar and powerful communications and
collaboration experiences provided by Microsoft."
In support of its vision, Microsoft today announced new and enhanced unified
communications technologies that will be part of the Microsoft Office system
2007 wave of products. The company will bring together its popular corporate
E-Mail offerings of Microsoft Exchange Server, which includes new unified
messaging capabilities, Microsoft Office Outlook and Microsoft Speech Server,
with updated versions of its real-time collaboration technologies and a set of
new communications devices to form a cohesive unified communications solution.
Built on a rich platform and supported by the extensive capabilities of its
growing partner ecosystem, Microsoft's unified communications offerings will
deliver seamless, comprehensive and integrated communications capabilities for
Raikes was joined onstage by Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of the
Microsoft Unified Communications Group, to demonstrate key capabilities of the
new and updated servers, services and devices:
- Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, a robust, flexible, Session
Initiation Protocol (SIP) standards-based real-time communication platform
that enables presence-based VoIP call management; audio-, video- and
webconferencing; and instant messaging communication within and across
existing software applications, services and devices.
- Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 unified messaging goes beyond E-Mail and
today's stand-alone voicE-Mail systems to deliver a unified inbox 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.
- Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, a unified communications client that
works in tandem with Office Communications Server 2007 to deliver a
presence-based, enterprise VoIP "softphone"; 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 audioconferencing; and webconferencing. As with
the previous versions, Office Communicator 2007 will be available in
desktop, browser-based and Windows Mobile-based versions.
- Microsoft Office Live Meeting, a rich conferencing service designed to
help users more effectively collaborate, conduct training and deliver
presentations using just a PC and an Internet connection. Improvements to
Office Live Meeting include support for e-learning, enhanced audio and video
capabilities including VoIP, a streamlined user interface, seamless
integration with the Microsoft Office system and simpler deployment.
- Microsoft Office RoundTable, an audio-video collaboration device with a
unique 360-degree camera. When combined with Office Communications Server
2007, RoundTable delivers an immersive conferencing experience that extends
the meeting environment across multiple locations. Meeting participants on
site and in remote locations gain a panoramic view of everyone in the
conference room as well as close-up views of individual participants as they
take turns speaking.
- Microsoft Office Communicator phone experience, Communicator-based
software designed to run an innovative set of new voice and video devices -
including business-enabled IP desktop phones - from Polycom Inc., LG-Nortel
Co. Ltd. and Thomson Telecom. This is a new ecosystem designed to run on
dedicated communications devices in tandem with Office Communications Server
2007 to extend and enhance the Microsoft unified communications experience.
- PC peripheral devices, such as USB handsets, wireless USB headsets, USB
webcams and PC monitors with built-in audio and video components. Devices
from industry partners GN Netcom Inc., Logitech, Motorola, Plantronics Inc.,
Samsung and Tatung Co. will work with Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 to
deliver a compelling communication experience on the PC.
"To achieve the productivity revolution we believe is possible with
unified communications, we need to provide deeper integration of
communications modes within the processes we use every day," Gupta said.
"Ensuring all modes of communications are people-centric and
presence-based will help people find and connect to the right person the
first time using the most effective communication modes. Software will
be the key to delivering on this promise, resulting in a more powerful
end-user experience, real productivity enhancements and compelling
business value for our customers and partners."
Building on its existing partner ecosystem, Microsoft also announced new
business alliances with HP, Motorola and Siemens to deliver on its vision
for unified communications. HP will provide hardware devices and systems
integration services for new and enhanced products based on Microsoft's
unified communications platform. Motorola will deliver mobile devices and
network hardware based on Office Communications Server 2007 and Office
Communicator Mobile. Siemens will advance the transformation of telephony,
audio-, video- and webconferencing, instant messaging and E-Mail into a
single unified communications platform.
Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 is scheduled to be released in late 2006
or early 2007. Microsoft Speech Server 2007 will be available in late 2006.
Communications Server 2007, Communicator 2007, Communicator phone
experience, Live Meeting, RoundTable and the IP-enabled business desktop
phones featuring Communicator phone experience will complete Microsoft's
unified communications solutions and are scheduled to be available in the
second quarter of 2007.
Cheers ~ Arne