Fueling Partner Innovation in Unified Communications

BOSTON, July 11, 2006 — Microsoft’s Unified Communications Group helped kick off the annual Worldwide Partner Conference today with announcements that demonstrate the expanded partner interest and opportunities for delivering compelling unified communications solutions. Today, Microsoft published technical documentation that allows any third-party developer to enable instant messaging (IM) federation and presence integration with Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005.  Also, Intel is delivering communications optimization in access platforms, servers and PC clients that seamlessly interoperate with Microsoft’s unified communications solutions.

The news comes just a couple weeks after Microsoft unveiled the company’s strategy, technology roadmap and partner framework for its unified communications vision — a vision that enables people to find and collaborate with critical contacts from the applications they use most to make more effective business decisions. Microsoft’s vision seeks to unify the silos of business communication that exist today, from e-mail and IM to telephony, voice over IP (VoIP) and conferencing.

Removing the Barriers to Enterprise IM Interoperability

Microsoft moved closer to its goal of unifying business communications today by announcing an industry-first specification that enables IM federation and presence integration opportunities for Office Live Communications Server 2005, the company’s enterprise IM platform. The new interoperability specification promotes partner innovation by making it easier for Live Communications Server 2005 customers to connect with their colleagues, business partners and customers using other IM servers. The detailed technical document, which gives third-party developers all the tools they need to enable IM federation and presence integration between Live Communications Server 2005 and other IM servers, is available immediately for download at no charge.

Today’s interoperability announcement underscores Microsoft’s commitment to extend the benefits of unified communications to customers while also supporting its ecosystem of industry partners with new opportunities for innovation.

“In today’s world of global commerce and outsourcing, companies need collaboration not only within their organization, but across corporate entities,” says Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of the Unified Communications Group at Microsoft. “We’ve already delivered the ability to federate Live Communications Server 2005 with AOL, Yahoo! and Windows Live Messenger. Today we’re expanding that effort, and giving developers the information they need to extend Live Communications Server 2005 interoperability with other IM servers.”

The federation specification allows IM servers to connect to the open architecture of the Microsoft Office system and fully complies with existing communications industry standards, including Request for Comment (RFC), Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and SIP Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extension (SIMPLE). Using the specification, any third-party developer can write a program to enable IM federation and presence integration with Live Communications Server 2005.

In addition to new specifications for Live Communications Server 2005, Microsoft also unveiled new samples and tools that show partners easy ways to add presence information from Live Communications Server 2005 to Web sites and applications (managed and unmanaged). The samples and tools are available today and will be demoed at the Worldwide Partner Conference.

Expanding the Partner Ecosystem to Unlock Innovation

Increasingly, Live Communications Server 2005 is serving as a hub for unified communications solutions. Microsoft is collaborating with industry-leading communications companies to enable further integration between business desktop phones and the rich collaboration environment on the PC and to accelerate innovation for next-generation unified communications products scheduled to launch over the next 12 months.

Intel, a leading provider of open, modular communications solutions, announced its support for interoperability and performance among its collaboration platforms and media gateways with Microsoft’s unified communications solutions. The goal is to help customers integrate legacy Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) infrastructure with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, streamlining business communications through integration with the rich communications and collaboration capabilities of Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 on the PC.

“Intel and Microsoft are aligned on the vision of the integrated communications infrastructure,” says Tom Kilroy, vice president and general manager of the Digital Enterprise Group at Intel Corporation. “Our silicon technology, from Intel Core microarchitecture-based processors through chipsets, carrier grade servers, media gateways, and OEM-created systems, will help enable a true end-to-end collaboration environment delivering high-fidelity voice and stunning visual performance.”

Other leading PSTN gateway providers recently announced support for interoperability with Microsoft’s unified communications solutions, including AudioCodes, Eicon Networks, Quintum Technologies, VegaStream and Welltech.

In addition, Microsoft is already working with Alcatel, Avaya, BT, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, Nortel and Siemens to enable SIP-based interoperability between voice communications solutions and Microsoft Office Communicator 2005. The solutions will enable business customers to launch and answer private branch exchange (PBX) and Internet Protocol-PBX (IP-PBX) phone calls and view phone presence state from within Office Communicator 2005. They also enable customers to seamlessly switch between instant messaging and voice sessions.

“Our vision is for a unified communications experience that spans networks, devices and applications,” Pall says. “In addition to the work we’re doing, we foresee tremendous potential for partners to innovate and extend customer value by developing powerful new applications, devices and services running on and alongside our unified communications platform.”

Also on the horizon are IP-based phones and peripherals that work with Office Communicator 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007 to deliver a compelling and integrated communications experience on the PC. Microsoft recently announced that it had forged strategic alliances with LG-Nortel Co. Ltd, Polycom Inc. and Thomson Telecom to develop and market a selection of IP-enabled business desktop phones. In addition, companies such as GN Netcom Inc., Logitech, Plantronics Inc., Samsung and Tatung Co. have joined forces with Microsoft to deliver a range of business communications peripheral devices, including Universal Serial Bus (USB) handsets, wireless USB headsets, USB webcams and PC monitors with built-in audio and video components

Microsoft also recently announced expanded and/or new business alliances with HP, Motorola and Siemens that help advance its unified communications vision. HP plans to provide enterprise systems and systems integration services for new and enhanced products based on Microsoft’s unified communications platform, while Motorola has said it will deliver mobile devices and network hardware based on Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile. Siemens, meanwhile, aims to advance the transformation of telephony, audio-, video- and webconferencing, instant messaging and e-mail into a single unified communications platform.

Communications Server 2007, Communicator 2007 and the IP-enabled business desktop phones featuring Communicator phone experience are scheduled to be available in the second quarter of 2007.

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