Microsoft’s Secret VoIP Strategy

According to IDC, recent moves by Microsoft indicate that its VoIP strategy is being stepped up.

The increased VoIP activity by Microsoft is happening in both the enterprise and the carrier space in IDC’s view. Sitting at the cornerstone of the increased activity is Microsoft Office Live Communications Server (LCS) 2005, specifically in the area of SIP-based collaborative applications.

Microsoft has been active in the IP-PBX market as well, striking up partnerships with vendors like Alcatel and Siemens. IDC also cited the partnerships as being proof positive of Redmond’s strengthening position in the enterprise VoIP market.

Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled the release of Microsoft Speech Server (MSS) 2004 R2, which may also play into Microsoft’s VoIP strategy. MSS is part of the Windows Server System and is a web-based, speech-enabled Interactive Voice Response (IVR) platform. According to Microsoft, MSS supports VoIP via industry partners that include Aculab, Brooktrout Inc., Eicon Networks, and Vail Systems Inc.

On the carrier front, the Connected Services Framework (CSF) is seen as a key part of Microsoft’s strategy as it allows converged services, across a variety of device types, on multiple networks to be delivered by service providers. IDC notes that by deploying CSF, service providers can bring together operator developed content and services as well as Microsoft solutions such as LCS 2005 and Microsoft Solution or Hosted Exchange 2003. Again partnerships are a critical part of the strategy, with British Telecom, MCI, and Bell Canada cited by IDC as examples.

“A battle for the enterprise desktop is looming between major IT and telecom vendors, and at the center of it are innovative types of user-defined communications and the marriage of telecom-based convergence and IT-based desktop collaboration,” Tom Valovic, IDC’s program director for VoIP Infrastructure, said in a statement.

Enterprise and carrier deployment are likely not the only components of Microsoft’s VoIP strategy. In recent weeks, a new MSN Messenger IM client was released which provides limited PC-to-PC VoIP capabilities. The upcoming Microsoft Office 12 suite has been rumored to include VoIP features as well.

Microsoft declined to comment on the IDC report or elaborate on its VoIP strategy for this story.

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