Microsoft Demos Office Communications Server ’14’

Microsoft gave the first public demonstration of its upcoming Office Communications Server, including new functions such as skill searches as well as location and presence awareness.

Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Unified Communications Group, gave a sneak peek at the update to its unified communications (UC) server during his keynote at VoiceCon 2010 Wednesday in Orlando. And he outlined some of the thinking that went into the product—known unofficially as Office Communications Server 14—in a blog post earlier in the day.

“In the next three years, we predict that UC will become the norm in business communications, more than half of VoIP calls at work will include more than just voice, and your communications client will enable UC with more than 1 billion people,” Pall said in his post on the Official Microsoft Blog.

Speaking on the theme of “connected communications,” Pall discussed the evolution of the way businesses view work in a seamlessly connected world. In that environment, Office Communications Server has seen “double-digit growth” over the past three years, and Pall expects that to continue.

“Today’s work-style doesn’t lend itself to a fixed place—or a fixed phone. Already, the average worker spends less than 40 percent of his or her workday at their desk,” Pall said in his post.

“Three years from now, new applications written by corporate developers, system integrators and software vendors will be communications-enabled by default. We predict that three out of every four new business applications will include embedded communications,” he continued.

Office Communications Server 14 is slated for release in the second half of the year, Microsoft said.

The upcoming release is currently dubbed “14” because the pending next version of Office had been codenamed “Office 14” prior to receiving its official product name of Office 2010. Because the rest of the Office family, including SharePoint Server and Exchange Server, have all since been officially tagged with the “2010” designation, the next release of Office Communications Server is also expected to carry the 2010 badge as well—although Microsoft officials so far are remaining mum regarding its official moniker.

Meanwhile, Office 2010 is scheduled for corporate launch on May 12, followed by consumer availability in June. Office 2010 entered “release candidate” stage—the final phase of testing before a Microsoft product is “released to manufacturing”—in early February. More than 4.5 million users downloaded the Office 2010 beta.

The unveiling of Office Communications Server 14 is Microsoft’s second major IP communications news of the week. On Monday, Microsoft and Verizon (NYSE, NADSAQ: VZ)announced that the carrier’s IP trunking technology has been certified to work with the current version of Microsoft’s UC solution—Office Communications Server 2007 Release 2 (R2).

Certification of Verizon’s IP trunking paves the way for customers to use Microsoft Communications Server’s voice calling, conferencing, instant messaging and user availability technologies in connection with Verizon VoIP calling capabilities.

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