New Briefs, March 7, 2007

Microsoft Takes Aim at Communications Market
The software powerhouse announced today that its Office Communications Server 2007 and companion Office Communicator client will see beta release before the month is out.

The combo represents Microsoft’s bid to be a dominant player in the unified communications business. (Unified communications centralizes most or all of today’s communications technologies –voice, e-mail, instant messaging, presence information, multimedia, and, in some cases, business applications—through a single client.)

Spokesperson Janice Knapner—director of the company’s unified communications group—acknowledged that, as a newcomer to the telecom area, acknowledged that Microsoft will have to earn potential customers’ trust. “We know we’re not intuitive to this, so we have to earn the credibility,” she said.

Microsoft hopes to earn at least some of this trust by partnering with experienced telecom players, such as Nortel, with whom it signed an alliance early this year.

On the other hand, Kapner suggested, Microsoft has an inherent advantage, in that its strategy focuses on software-, rather than hardware-based solutions. “That’s a strong differentiator for us,” she said.

Microsoft expects this software-based approach will drive down the cost of IP communications solutions markedly over the next several years.

CallButler Out of Beta
The software PBX for SOHO businesses, launched last September as a beta (see our profile, is in official release as of today, according to spokespersons from developer/vendor Telephony2.

The product—available in two versions, the SIP-based CallButler Unlimited ($249) and the Skype-based CallButler Pro ($29.95)—provides small businesses with most of the amenities of a “grown-up” IP phone system, including auto attendant, interactive voice response, voicemail, dial-by-name directory, call forwarding, find/follow, and other advanced call handling features.

An important claim to fame for CallButler is total ease of installation, setup, and use. The goal, as stated by Telephony2 CEO Jim Heising was to “make it so simple my grandfather could set it up.”

Since the beta launch, Telephony2 has acquired something in the neighborhood of 5 thousand customers. “It’s truly gratifying that CallButler has received such wide acceptance in only its first few months,” said CEO Heising. “We received great ideas and feedback from our beta community and love hearing about customers who are saving thousands of dollars every year, while improving productivity and customer service.”

Another of CallButler’s features is multilingual prompts and messages. This expanded language capacity is tied in to Telephony2’s plans to market the product widely in Europe.

In honor of its official launch, CallButler Unlimited will be available at the reduced price of $199.95.

Gizmo Offers Free SMS
SIPphone, Inc., developer of SIP-based softphone and PC-based VoIP service, Gizmo Project, today announced Gizmo SMS, a web-based service that will send simple text messages to mobile phones in over 65 countries the world over—for free.

The new SMS application is a counterpart to SIPphone’s web-based Gizmo Call, a client-less browser application (using Java) that launched in late January.

To send a text message, users simply go to the Gizmo SMS website, pick the destination country, type in the mobile phone number, enter the message (using the computer keyboard, a big advantage over phone-based SMS), enter a CAPTCHA-based verification code, and click to send.

Gizmo SMS automatically identifies the recipient’s mobile carrier and delivers the message. The CAPTCHA verification ensures that only humans, not computers, use the service.

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