Microsoft GM Scopes Out New Tools For Unified Communications Push - InformationWeek

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Microsoft GM Scopes Out New Tools For Unified Communications Push

Microsoft is pitching its UC gear -- currently Live Communications Server and its soon-to-come successor, Office Communications Server 2007 -- as a platform.

As with any Microsoft platform discussion, there is great interest in where the UC platform ends and third-party opportunity begins. Debique said Microsoft will do what it traditionally does: "Take something vertical and tip it horizontal," making Office Communications Server infrastructure that can have specialized, higher-value applications built on top of it.

Or at least that's the public message.

Microsoft's UC view is that "in situ" use of presence and UC is key. "We've thought a lot about contextual collaboration," Debique said. "ployees come in, sit in front of some application and do their best work. In some cases it's our Office suite, but in manufacturing it might be a 3-D modeling application. Whatever they do every day, we want to enhance that experience."

That would mean, for example, that an engineer working in CAD all day would want a presence-enabled iteration of that product, in which he would see his colleagues or suppliers and customers on screen and immediately know the best way to reach them -- cell phone or landline, e-mail or instant messaging. He also could set up Web meetings on the fly, if need be.

"If you're in Autodesk, the presence would show up in situ right there," Debique said. "That app becomes the softphone, and we should enable that. Autodesk doesn't want to become the UC expert, but maybe our stuff would layer on there. Autodesk is the expert on that particular end user."

Microsoft's UC team already has done a lot of work in interactive voice response (IVR) by integrating it with its workflow foundation and workflow designer, according to Debique. "We need to make it easy for an IT person who has to worry about business policy and workflow and, maybe more broadly, apply the IVR stuff to the broader UC world."

Larry LeSueur, vice president of infrastructure and security solutions at Avanade, is bullish on the business opportunity that UC presents and agreed that tool adjustments must be made. "[Microsoft will] have to invest in Visual Studio Team System to make it applicable here. How do you create code within line-of-business applications to make it easier to apply presence?" he said.

"The company has done a good job around Office Communications System and MOSS [Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server] 2007, integrating presence across its own product suites. But how about third-party applications to enable presence and conferencing from OCS?" LeSueur added.

Consulting firms and integrators like Seattle-based Avanade will have their own tool sets at the ready, as well as best practices to ease UC implementation.

NEXT: Microsoft faces big competitors in UC game.

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