Barney's Rubble

Hands-On With Office Communications Server

So recently, it was just a short hop from here to the Waltham, Mass., offices of Microsoft, where I enjoyed the Customer Immersion Experience and saw many 2010 products up close and personal. They even made me use them!

While Redmond magazine sounds like it's based in Redmond, Wash., we're actually bi-coastal. Half the staff luxuriates in sunny Irvine, Calif., while I and a few others call Framingham, Mass., home.

So recently, it was just a short hop from here to the Waltham, Mass., offices of Microsoft, where I enjoyed the Customer Immersion Experience and saw many 2010 products up close and personal. They even made me use them!

On the sixth floor of a typical upscale, suburban New England office building, Microsoft regularly entertains customers, showing how new and unreleased products work in the real world. That's where I got a hands-on demo of Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Exchange, SQL Server and Office Communications Server (OCS) all working together. And with Outlook 2010, there's tight integration with social media such as Facebook, Twitter and -- job searchers' delight -- LinkedIn.

It's a rich and complex array of offerings, with myriad ways of communicating. Where we used to have a telephone, fax and the U.S. mail, with this combo you have telephony, e-mail, video and Web conferencing, IM, social media and various kinds of alerts -- plus you can still use fax and the U.S. mail. The only thing I didn't see, or maybe missed, was the ability to text.

For me, a simple man of the past, it's a bit much. It's as though I spend all my time communicating and no time working. Too much of this and I'm ready to have a nervous breakdown -- drive me insane!

The good news, of course, is IT can choose which mechanisms to invoke, maximizing communication efficiency and hopefully minimizing disruption.

All of this is a prelude to news about the next version of OCS. The new rev, expected this year, not only detects whether you're present on the network, but also where you are physically. As a boss, this is tempting -- but I'd rather resist watching my employees' every move. And as an employee, it seems a little uncomfortable.

In the old days, we had a device that could immediately detect one's presence. We called it a telephone. You rang someone up and if they answered, they were there! And with landlines, you knew precisely where they were.

Just 10 years ago, I'd break for lunch (remember when we used to do this?), come back and have 10 phone messages. These days if I somehow manage to slip away for lunch I come back to 40 e-mails and zero voice mails. So, just for the record, my number is 978-582-0066.

Do you miss the telephone, or is electronic communication where it's at? I want to publish your responses, so I'll contradict myself and ask you to write me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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