LOS ANGELES, March 2, 1999 — You visit your favorite Web site, but you can’t find the information you need. So you click a video call button on your browser and up pops a customer-service representative on the screen. You explain your problem, and the representative shows you, on screen, how to find the information you want. For the online customer-service rep, who routinely serves thousands of customers like you through a combination of phone calls, emails and Web site contacts, it’s all in a day’s work.
Sound far-fetched? Such advances are now possible, thanks to a vibrant industry known as “computer telephony” and the Windows operating system, which has become the software platform that helps integrate computing, telephone and Internet capabilities in surprising new ways to benefit consumers and business users. Hundreds of companies are already developing or offering solutions that take advantage of the communications features of Windows making it the most important platform for computer-based solutions that integrate telephony and communications.
This week, nearly 40,000 visitors are attending the Computer Telephony Expo Spring ’99 in Los Angeles for a semi-annual view of the industry. These visitors will see, for the first time, some of the newest communications technologies that will extend the Windows platform for communications. In addition, they’ll hear about important new agreements that will benefit the communications industry and its customers.
As part of this week’s CT Expo news, Microsoft announced separate agreements with telecommunications companies Genoa Technology and Dialogic Corp. The Genoa Technology agreement will add better telephony coverage to the Designed for Windows logo program starting this spring, for enhanced customer satisfaction and improved interoperability between telephony hardware and software. The agreement with Dialogic Corp., the world’s largest telephony board vendor, will accelerate the use of open platforms and standards, extending the benefits of computer telephony and network convergence to organizations of all sizes. It is expected to spur significant industry growth.
“Today’s announcements demonstrate Microsoft’s willingness to invest in voice and data communications services,” said Jim Burton, analyst with CT Link. “I am impressed with the progress that Microsoft has made in moving the state of the art ahead and, therefore, creating new business opportunities for the industry.”
Anyone who’s dialed into an automated voicemail system or made a business or financial transaction by hitting touch-tone phone buttons knows that computers and telephones are converging rapidly in ways not envisioned just a few years ago. This change mirrors the rapid growth of personal computing that began almost 20 years ago.
The PC revolution began when computer companies and customers abandoned closed or proprietary computer hardware and software for open standards that enabled products from many vendors to work together. The move to open systems was a fundamental change in the computer industry that enabled staggering innovation with unprecedented benefits for customers. The same change is now taking place in the communications business. Phone systems and networking systems increasingly run on open software platforms – especially Windows – that provide benefits similar to the benefits they bring to computer users.
“The news this week at CT Expo underscores that Microsoft is committed to the vision of open communications and that they’re making the business and technology investments to make this happen for customers,” said Jim Zuber, president of Genoa Technology.
“By working with Microsoft, we will be able to make new, more powerful system services a mainstream asset for developers and broaden customer access to cost-effective solutions,” agreed Howard Bubb, president and CEO of Dialogic Corp.. Under the new agreement, Microsoft will license Dialogic’s CT Media server software and Dialogic will provide development services to Microsoft. In addition, Microsoft has made an equity investment in Dialogic. The result of these joint efforts will extend the Windows platform to make it easier for developers to build open, cost-effective computer telephony and converged communications solutions.
In addition to the business announcements at CT Expo, Microsoft also previewed its NetMeeting 3.0 Beta product and its Web-based interactive voice response (IVR) technology and announced plans to extend its popular Windows Telephony Applications Programming Interface (TAPI) 3.0 support.
NetMeeting is already the most popular Internet conferencing and collaboration software. The new version 3.0 supports more industry standards so that consumers, and business users will find it easier to use NetMeeting with a broader range of third-party products. It also supports new features, such as the NetMeeting ActiveX control, which makes the software easier to use on Web sites.
In a separate preview, Microsoft’s Web-based IVR technology provided more evidence of how open platforms are used in communications. Web-based IVR will give vendors a new way to create and deploy interactive voice applications using Web technologies. Several vendors in Microsoft’s Partner Pavilion demonstrated products under development that make use of this new technology.
TAPI, which is included with all Windows operating system products, allows software written by one company to work with telephone hardware made by another company. The new version will provide several enhancements to make computer telephony software more useful and versatile by allowing applications to work the same way whether a voice, data or video call is carried over the Internet, an Intranet, a traditional phone line, or a high-speed ATM communications infrastructure.
As part of its announcements today, Microsoft said it would extend TAPI 3.0, already scheduled for inclusion in Windows 2000, to Windows 98. The move will enable even more consumers and business users to take advantage of TAPI, while expanding the market for developers.
“Microsoft is committed to innovation and to creating new opportunities and customer benefits in telephony and converged communications based on the Windows platform and open standards,” said Jim Allchin, senior vice president, Personal and Business Systems at Microsoft. Visitors here at CT Expo got that message loud and clear.