Microsoft cancels Response Point (VoIP/PBX solution for Small Business)

voip, response point, pbx, microsoft office communications server, unified communications

As you may have already heard, Microsoft has cancelled its Microsoft Response Point product, which stemmed out of Microsoft Research's Startup Business Accelerator/Communications Innovation Center group.  This hopeful compact small business PBX/key set system replacement had a lot of opportunity, but due to the product's inability to integrate with Microsoft's larger Unified Communications vision and product roadmap; it simply did not fit in.  The current version of Response Point will still be supported, but there will be no further plans to build upon the Response Point product roadmap.  I personally assisted with technical and sales readiness for this product so it was a bit of a heartbreak to see it go, but I am positive a branch and SMB solution for Microsoft Office Communications Server will provide the level of service organizations need to replace their PBX systems today and to provide a low entry cost for SMB communications.  In my opinion it was really a matter of time for this product to be cancelled due to its closed design and non-integration with other server products such as Exchange and namely Active Directory, but I still felt that the system had its place among keyset/PBX replacement products like Panasonic’s TDX platform. 

Bottom line, Small and Medium-sized businesses need a price-performance communications platform.  Whether this is provided within Microsoft’s Small Business Server platform or a lite version or appliance-based version of Office Communications Server, this is definitely a weak area that has not been addressed by Microsoft and customers are waiting anxiously, especially now.  In my opinion, there should the three models available to SMBs:

1.     An Office Communications Server Lite edition that runs on a hybrid gateway device that provides integration into Exchange Server, but provides a consolidated server/single license edition which includes all of the common voice and collaboration features a SMB needs to hit the ground running.  Simple setup and management is a must, which was the objective of Microsoft Response Point.

2.     An Office Communications Server Lite edition that runs within Microsoft’s Small Business Server product as an add-on module such as Unified Messaging or Exchange itself on the server.  Again, simple setup, consolidated design, single license.

3.     A hosted voice solution that provides integration with Windows Live and Office Live or through hosting providers to enable an even lower TCO for start-ups or self-employed individuals. 

Each system needs to provide SIP Trunking integration with common ITSP (Internet Telephony Providers) or provided in a hosted manner similar to the Windows Live voice capabilities through Windows Live Messenger. 

From a Microsoft Small Business Server or Blade/Gateway perspective, I think there should be an interface as well to provide branch office access to the Standard Edition version of Office Communications Server to help with growth of an organization moving from a SMB to Enterprise environment and include optional services such as Fixed Mobile Converged Device solutions from leading mobile carriers, video and hosted webconferencing solutions, and integration with popular SMB solutions such as Microsoft CRM, SharePoint, etc.

Regardless, Microsoft has got to get this right and quickly as Response Point was the only answer for small business voice solutions from the manufacturer over the past 5 years. 

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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