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3/24/2008
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Microsoft Bolsters Its VoIP Strategy With Response Point Service Pack

To get small businesses interested in its telephony products, Microsoft also is teaming with several hardware manufacturers for its summer release.

Microsoft will release a free and simple download of its Service Pack 1 for its Response Point phone system this summer, the software company reported Monday at its annual Microsoft Small Business Summit.

Response Point SP1 will enable small business to supplement its traditional phone service with VoIP services, Microsoft said as it noted that the VoIP flexibility of SP1 will allow small businesses to scale quickly and cost-effectively compared with the effort they would have to expend to carry out similar operations using public switched telephone network (PSTN) lines.

"Response Point SP1 will make it easy to transition from traditional analog service to the promise of digital voice services," said Xuedong Huang, Microsoft's general manager for Response Point, in a statement. Huang noted that customers are becoming more comfortable with moving from analog to VoIP as they become more experienced using VoIP.

Other features of the SP1 include the ability to maintain a local VoIP phone number so small businesses can maintain a presence with local Chamber of Commerce directories and Yellow Pages. The software upgrade also is expected to provide an improvement in inbound calls through a service called Direct Inward Dialing. The feature would route known inbound callers directly to a particular extension or pool of extensions to ensure that someone will always pick up the phone.

As an adjunct to Microsoft's own efforts, this summer hardware vendors Aastra Technologies, D-Link, and Quanta Computer will ship end-to-end Response Point phone systems pre-loaded with SP1, Microsoft said. Yves Laliberte, Aastra VP, said it is working to integrate Aastra's scalable and flexible corded and wireless SIP phones into SP1.

Microsoft observed that small business users can utilize a simple VoIP account setup wizard in Response Point Administrator to connect with Internet telephony service providers. The exercise adds new VoIP phone numbers in minutes as compared with the days and even weeks that were often required to carry out similar work on traditional analog lines.

Microsoft cited a study conducted by market research firm Access Markets International (AMI) Partners, which found that a small business with from 10 to 19 employees can save an average of $8,000 in the first year after purchasing an IP-based phone system.

Created by a team at Microsoft Research, Response Point was developed as though it were serving an authentic business startup.

Microsoft said registration is now open for a 12-city U.S. training tour sponsored by Microsoft to educate its VARs and channel partners on the improvements to Response Point. The tour is scheduled from April through June.

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