How OCS fits into the whole unified communications scene

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates Tuesday launched the company’s unified communication platform, as planned. He said this is a milestone that validates the era of the softphone. The launch today consisted of Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 and Office Communicator 2007, the client side of Microsoft’s unified communication platform. The predecessor platform was Live Communications Server 2005, but OCS features more sophisticated voice technology. OCS is Microsoft's stab at the Next Big Communications Thing – Unified Communications. This is the stitching together of e-mail, instant messaging, presence, voice and video. Next up, Gates says, is the death of the PBX. However, if one Network World reader is to be believed, Gate's message was a snore. "Gates says … and nobody listens …" the reader said Meanwhile, before the PBX completely dies, Microsoft wants to belly up to third-parties to supply the necessary hardware OCS needs to, well, operate. Microsoft is expanding its work with enterprise telephony vendors to make its Office Communication Server (OCS) 2007 work more closely with office phone systems. Microsoft has a formal program in place to certify interoperability between IP phone systems and OCS. The word is that Microsoft has a specification that lets enterprises cutover one building at a time to OCS while still allowing calls to be routed across the company as if they were on the PBX. Two models of Cisco's ISR will be among the products certified for this type of interoperability, Microsoft says. Indeed, Microsoft described wide industry support during the formal announcement of Office Communications Server. Despite the potential to compete against portions of the software, companies like Nortel Networks and Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson said they've partnered with the software giant to deliver products that will run on the OCS unified communications system. They join a total of 50 partners including Asus Computer GmbH and NEC making products like USB (Universal Serial Bus) phones using Microsoft OCS software. Of course, there's the Nortel alliance, too.Announced in 2006, it's long-term success is still debatable. A lot depends on how well Microsoft plays with its partner-petitors Ultimately, of course, Microsoft hopes that users will yank gear from the big players (even its so-called friend Cisco and certainly Avaya) that sell IP PBXs with their own handsets. Its competitive play is OCS together with Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 client software, or phones from Polycom or LG Electronics. Meanwhile, let's not forget that Microsoft has a somewhat unrelated product line, ResponsePoint, a turnkey solution for SMBs that includes phones from Quanta, D-Link and Aastra Technologies. Different hardware, different partners and also, if you want advanced "unified communications" features like presence, you have to go with OCS and its approved SIP phones.

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