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VoIP, Conferencing Added to Office Communication Server 2007 Beta

Microsoft's unified communications picture is making one more push before seeing the light of day this summer in the form of deployable products.

Microsoft's unified communications picture is making one more push before seeing the light of day this summer in the form of deployable products.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, during his keynote at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Los Angeles on Tuesday, demonstrated the last key additions -- voice-over-IP and on-premise voice/video/conferencing -- that are now being publicly tested in recently released betas of Office Communications Server 2007 and the Office Communicator 2007 instant messaging client.

Chris Cullin, director of Microsoft's Unified Communications Group, provided a more detailed post-keynote demonstration of the VoIP and on-premise communications features running between Outlook and in an Office Communicator client beta. Integrated into the IM client was a rich presence feature that allows the user to click and obtain real-time telephone and e-mail data from Outlook personal and corporate contacts lists, as well as show IM presence information. Cullin then initiated an IM to a client, which escalated to a phone call, then a conference call with video capabilities. Interchangeably, e-mail messages, phone calls, IMs and conferences can originate from Outlook or Outlook for Web Access.

Microsoft is also showcasing at WinHEC nine partners -- ASUSTek Computer, GN, Nortel, NEC, Plantronics, Polycom, Samsung, Tatung and Vitelix -- who are already providing support in the form of 15 telephony products that serve as Office Communication Server 2007 beta testing platforms. Cullin's demonstration showed VoIP calls originating from Outlook to a Nortel handset and Motorola Pebl phone, as well as a new Polycom phone, which sports a touch screen displaying Outlook contacts.

The initial participating partners are also helping Microsoft to develop a Unified Communications Device Qualification program. "What we're doing with the certification program is defining the user experience," Cullin said, "from video quality, audio quality, not just the hardware/software interactions." The program is closed for now, but Cullin said it will be opened up to all partners once the certification process is set in stone.

With one last beta, Gates said to expect release to manufacturing near the end of June.

See related: Microsoft Moves Full Speed Ahead on Messaging

About the Author

Michael Domingo is Editor in Chief of Virtualization Review. He's been an IT writer and editor for so long that he remember typing out news items in WordStar.

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