Redmond, Wash., Nov. 30, 2007 – In October, Microsoft launched the next generation of its unified communications products, including Office Communications Server 2007 (OCS 2007) and Office Communicator 2007. To further support the company’s software-based approach to business communications, the company today unveiled the Unified Communications Developer Portal on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). The portal includes a number of resources, including new software developer kits (SDKs) and application programming interfaces (APIs), to help developers build compelling applications on Microsoft’s unified communications platform.
Kirt Debique, General Manager, Microsoft Office Communications Platform & Solutions Group
PressPass spoke to Kirt Debique, general manager for the Office Communications Platform & Solutions Group, about how these resources will help enterprise developers build applications on Microsoft’s unified communications platform.
PressPass: Why is Microsoft making these tools available to developers?
Debique: We’re a platform company, and that philosophy is an especially powerful differentiator in the unified communications space. For example, Exchange Server 2007 is a foundational component in our unified communications solution, and the Exchange Server Developer Center has proven to us how important it is to have one place to go to for developers to create a vibrant community. Following the launch of OCS 2007, we want to provide developers with the tools to build communications solutions on our OCS platform. We strongly believe that it will be developers that will ignite the next generation of innovation for our customers.
PressPass: Can you give some examples of the kinds of solutions that developers can build on the Microsoft Unified Communications platform?
Debique: Developers are using our tools to build solutions in three main areas: contextual collaboration, business process communications and anywhere information access.
Contextual Collaboration is about enabling collaboration within the applications and processes where you get your work done. Instead of communications being an interruption in your work flow, it becomes jet fuel in your process. The key to all of this is presence, and the ability to easily integrate presence and “click to communicate” functionality into every application. The available communication modes span email, instant messaging, voice, video and conferencing. Some great examples of contextual collaboration include the integration of presence and click-to-communicate capabilities in Office, SharePoint and Dynamics CRM. In addition, we recently announced that SAP will integrate the same capabilities into Duet, and our partner Dassault Systèmes has done it with their 3DLive products.
Business Process Communications is about efficient automated communications in the context of business workflows. Presence-aware, real-time communications using alerts and notifications can reduce the time necessary to contact an approver and get a decision made to move a process forward. Our customers tell us that reducing human latency and managing interruptions in the workflow is a big factor in improving the ROI of their unified communications investments. Our platform enables developers to build solutions that optimize the end-to-end processing time of business workflows, delivering significant value to our customers.
Anywhere Information Access is about extending the reach of business information and services beyond the desktop to phones and mobile devices, resulting in greater productivity for users on the move. With the huge reach of mobile phones, advances in speech recognition and text-to-speech technologies, and innovations like Office Communicator Mobile, we now have the ability to deliver a rich unified communications experience to the end user. Our platform allows developers to use the communications channel as a delivery vehicle for critical business information and analysis. A great example is Outlook Voice Access in Exchange Server, which gives full access to e-mail, contacts, calendaring and other information through voice commands.
PressPass: Where can developers learn more about Microsoft’s developer resources and access these tools?
Debique: We’ve launched the Unified Communications Developer Portal on MSDN accessible at http://msdn.microsoft.com/uc. This is the ideal point of entry for developers to get information, post questions and receive help from our team. They can access the latest tools including the SDKs and APIs, and find the white papers and blogs published about our technology. We also would love to make this portal the place where we start the dialogue with the community and get feedback to help us make the platform better for developers everywhere.
PressPass: What makes the Microsoft unified communications platform different from other offerings?
Debique: It is the only unified communications platform designed specifically for the Microsoft developer community. We have abstracted the complexity of communications into APIs that can be easily integrated with other software solutions. Take the UC Managed API. It is .NET. You program it in managed code, you use Visual Studio and it does what it is designed to do. You don’t need to worry about the underlying hardware.
If you come at this from a traditional, telephony-centric mindset, hardware restricts your ability to communicate across the different modalities whether that is IM, audio, video. The Microsoft platform seamlessly combines these modalities, opening up new possibilities for developers to build communications solutions that redefine the way employees collaborate and work.
PressPass: What enhancements can we expect in the unified communications developer experience going forward?
Debique: Developers will take unified communications in directions that we haven’t even imagined yet. Going forward, we’re focused on delivering even more powerful APIs based on .Net and Web Services supported by easy-to-use, familiar and integrated tools. You’ll be hearing more from us at the 2008 Office Developers Conference in February.