VoiceCon: Microsoft to introduce first public beta of Office VoIP products

Microsoft's unified communications products set to debut

Microsoft Wednesday will unveil the first public beta of its Office Communications Server and Office Communicator client, the heart of its unified communications strategy.

See: Microsoft to the VoIP industry: we're here

Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s business division is slated to make the announcement during his keynote speech at the VoiceCon conference in Orlando, Fla., according to a blog post by the Microsoft Unified Communications & RTC User Group in the United Kingdom.

A document on the Microsoft Web site Presspass, however, hints that availability might not come until later this month. “Microsoft plans to begin public beta-testing later this month of the company's first two products that include enhanced VoIP capabilities,” the document states.

Microsoft also plans to release a four-minute video of Raikes discussing unified communications. On the video Raikes says, “within three years, more than 100 million people will be able to make phone calls from Microsoft Outlook, SharePoint, and other Microsoft Office System applications.”

Shell is trying out the software (see related story).

Microsoft is not the only one expected to announce unified communications tools Wednesday. IBM and Cisco have called a press conference to announce a partnership around unified communications.

Microsoft began a private beta of OCS 2007 on Dec. 11 with 2,500 IT pros. The company also hosted a Technology Adoption Program (TAP) Summit that same week for 250 IT representatives from 100 companies.

Final shipment of OCS is slated for mid-2007, with sources saying that the server should be generally available in June.

In December, Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s unified communications group, said in a statement, “The convergence of telecom and data networks is happening rapidly. Software will integrate these two worlds, enabling IT managers to deliver new communications possibilities that include VoIP.”

With the release of the OCS 2007 public beta, a wider swath of corporate users will get a chance to test that proclamation.

Microsoft is touting OCS 2007 as the platform that allows companies to integrate VoIP technology into existing telephony infrastructure.

OCS, which features native support for the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), allows users to instantly launch a phone call from Office 2007 applications, such as Word, Outlook, or OC by simply clicking on a highlighted name of another user.

Microsoft also is positioning OCS 2007 along side Exchange 2007, which was released late last year, as a unified messaging platform. Exchange integrates with OCS 2007 to support its built-in auto-attendant for answering and routing inbound voice calls as well as unified messaging that unifies voice mail and e-mail in a single inbox

In June, Microsoft and Nortel unveiled their Innovative Communications Alliance (ICA) that incorporates Microsoft’s unified communications software and Nortel’s Communications Server 1000 IP-PBX.

The two are slated to make another announcement today at VoiceCon.

In January, the pair expanded on the alliance during a joint news conference by introducing three new products that include branch office hardware for VoIP and unified communications, a unified messaging integration slated to ship in the second quarter of 2007 and integration of Nortel conferencing software and OC 2007.

Microsoft also has announced partnerships with Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco Systems, Mitel Networks, NEC Philips Unified Solutions, Polycom and Siemens Communications.

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