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Microsoft And Polycom Strike Desktop Conferencing Pact

Within a few months, Windows PC users will be able to launch video conferences using IM's "presence awareness"

Microsoft and Polycom Inc. disclosed plans to integrate their products to give PC users new options for audio and video conferencing.

The first fruits of the alliance are due later this year, when instant messaging and presence awareness capabilities in Microsoft's Office Live Communications Server and Windows Messenger instant-messaging client extend to Polycom's hardware, including its desktop and group video conference systems, IP handsets and conference phones, voice and video bridges, and WebOffice conference portal. Later, the companies plan to establish similar integration between Polycom products and Microsoft's Office Live Meeting, a Web conferencing application. Marc Sanders, senior product manager in the Real Time Collaboration Group at Microsoft, sees information about a computer user's online "presence" as an increasingly critical to business productivity. "Without presence, three out of four business calls typically end in voicemail," he says.

The two companies tout the real-time rich media collaboration capabilities they plan to provide as a way to enable faster decision making, increase the productivity of workgroups and remote workers, and improve relationships with customers and others, while lowering costs. "We think people will expect more and more to be able to collaborate in real time," says Sanders, who notes that the two companies will be using the tools they co-develop within their own companies.

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