Microsoft Introduces Unified Communications Tools for Developers - InformationWeek
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Microsoft Introduces Unified Communications Tools for Developers

Microsoft recently announced its Unified Communications Developer Portal. The site, found on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), includesinformation related to  software developer kits and application programming interfaces (APIs) devcelopers can leverage to build applications on its unified communications platform (e.g., Office Communications Server 2007, Office Live Meeting 2007).

What's the significance of this announcement?

Some Microsoft speakers at the October UC launch event signaled that Microsoft’s next move would occur in the developer area related to UC-enable business and productivity applications. The announcement is significant since it is often the application solution (and its potential ROI) that helps build the business case for infrastructure upgrades and deployment of new products. In this case, if IT organizations can see how to build UC-specific applications, or augment existing applications through UC-related services, then the business case for adopting/migrating/deploying Microsoft’s products (such as Office Communications Server) becomes more complete. By delivering an application scenario around its UC platform, Microsoft alleviates some of the delays that occur when infrastructure upgrades lack an identifiable business solution. That said, there are a lot of different API’s in this announcement. To some extent, the possible permutations of API’s a developer might need to utilize when building a UC-enabled application reflects a lack of maturity and cohesiveness around the development model for Microsoft’s UC platform. In some ways, the amount of API sets reminds me of a mashup of sorts as Microsoft packages multiple products into a “platform” that is not entirely normalized underneath. While there are a lot of API's here (arguably, an abundance of riches for those building software products), application developers are not software engineers and simplification wins out over complexity. There will likely be some initial confusion regarding the different techniques programmers can adopt when developing UC-based systems on Microsoft’s platform. I would expect Microsoft to raise the abstraction layer up a notch and be more consistent with the different ways applications can be built with the various toolkits in subsequent releases.

What does it bring to developers?

Everything that I mentioned above related to developers – plus – this strategy leverages the experience (e.g., .NET) developers already have with Microsoft tools (e.g., leverage UC plug-ins for Visual Studio).

How credible is Microsoft's position in the unified communications space?

Very credible but it has different areas of competency that are at different levels of maturity. Microsoft’s core strengths are in the real-time collaboration re: IM, presence, web conferencing. They are rapidly moving into the area traditionally dominated by communication vendors – VoIP/IP Telephony, audio/video conferencing. But right now, I believe most organizations are going to deploy OCS and “get stable” around the real-time collaboration capabilities, then move to VoIP and integration with existing communication vendors as driven by business requirements. I do not see anyone ripping out their existing IP-PBX infrastructure in the short run. I do expect more rapid adoption of Round Table however given its price point, form factor and integration with Live Meeting. But make no mistake, Microsoft is in the UC game for the long run and fully intends to dominate it from a platform perspective - that includes mobile and speech as a standard application interaction model.

Who is the typical "developer" they are targeting?

Microsoft wants to appeal to different segments of the developer community. They want to make it easy for the average developer to UC-enable productivity applications, deliver more complex UC-centric systems at a platform level, and extend the modality of applications with speech interfaces – so I really think it is across the board – from the historical “VB”-like developer to the IT Pro who might be developing at a core infrastructure level.

Microsoft Introduces Unified Communications Tools for Developers

Q&A: Kirt Debique, general manager for Microsoft’s Office Communications Platform & Solutions Group, discusses how a new Unified Communications Developer Portal will provide enterprise developers with secure and reliable tools for building applications.

Related Links

MSDN Unified Communications Developer Portal
Developer Tools News
Unified Communications Virtual Pressroom

Microsoft Unified Communications: How Developers Can Blend Messaging, Voice and Conferencing with Next-Generation Applications
UNC301: Unified Communications for Developers: Building Communications Into Your Applications

Microsoft Introduces Unified Communications Tools for Developers

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