The Road to Istanbul
Microsoft's second-generation real-time collaboration server, Live Communications Server 2005, should be on the shelves this month. But despite the advanced stage of the server, the client piece is barely off the drawing board.
Microsoft only unveiled its new real-time collaboration client for LCS 2005 in October, about a week before the server was released to manufacturing. Code-named "Istanbul," the client builds on LCS 2005 and Exchange to more fully realize Microsoft's real-time collaboration dreams.
LCS 2003 used Windows Messenger 5.0 as its primary client for users to transmit instant messages, convey presence information and provide the front end for file transfers, video and voice. LCS 2005 hits the market with a slightly modified 5.1 version of Windows Messenger.
Istanbul is similar to Windows Messenger in core functionality, layout and its relatively small size on the desktop when used alone. But Istanbul breaks new ground with its richer, more automated presence capabilities and integration with enterprise desktop phones.
Istanbul will leave Microsoft with three instant messaging clients, including MSN Messenger. "The Istanbul client is designed to be the best client for Live Communications Server," says Ed Simnett, lead product manager for real-time collaboration at Microsoft.
As is often the case with new Microsoft features and products of late, the presence capabilities in Istanbul are extensible for third-party developers, but they perhaps operate best when integrated with functions built in to other Microsoft products. For example, Istanbul pulls Out of Office and calendar information from Exchange to help determine presence status. Insiders refer to this type of integration as the Microsoft "strategy tax," but the utility is undeniable. Imagine scrolling through a list of dozens of coworkers in another department and determining immediately who is around to take your question.
Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.