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3/19/2007
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Microsoft Unveils Digital Phone System For Small Business

The company developed Response Point to work alongside traditional phone systems or voice-over-IP systems.

Continuing its recent foray into the market for digital communications products, Microsoft on Monday introduced its first packaged digital phone system for small business.

The system, called Response Point, is designed to let companies of up to 50 employees easily set up and maintain a digital telephone network without the cost or complexity of a public branch exchange system.

"One-third of SMBs lack an advanced phone network of any kind, so we think it's a great opportunity," Response Point product manager Jeff Smith says. The software, which has been in development under the code name Edinburgh, will work alongside traditional phone systems or voice-over-IP systems, Smith said.

Response Point will be sold as embedded software within digital phones manufactured by Microsoft hardware partners D-Link, Quanta Syspine, and Uniden Evolo. Systems will be available later this year at a price that's yet to be determined, says Smith.

Microsoft is hoping Response Point's ease of use will appeal to small businesses that typically lack in-house computer or telephony expertise. The company claims individuals with average PC skills will be able to use a simplified management console to add users to the system, set up voice mail, and configure extensions.

Embedded voice recognition technology will enable office workers to initiate a call simply by pressing a button on their Response Point phone and speaking a colleague's name.

Microsoft is aggressively looking to build its presence in the market for computer-based voice services. Last week, the company announced the acquisition of TellMe Networks, a developer of voice recognition software, for an undisclosed price.

The company plans to distribute the public beta versions of Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007 later this month. Both feature built-in support for digital voice services.

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