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Agile Development Authors: Jason Bloomberg, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Charles Araujo, Liz McMillan

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.NET News: Microsoft Unveils Unified Communications Product Road Map and Partner Ecosystem

New 2007 Office System Products Unifies Voice, Conferencing, IM and Collaboration

Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division has unveiled the company’s vision, technology road map and partner framework for unified communications at a strategy event in San Francisco. Microsoft'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 businesses.

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.

More Stories By .NETDJ News Desk

.NETDJ News Desk monitors Microsoft .NET and its related technologies, including Silverlight, to present IT professionals with news, updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards, and insight.

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