VoIP, IP Devices on Call at WinHEC

Microsoft yesterday unveiled 15 new telephones and other devices that will work together with e-mail, instant messaging, conferencing and Voice over IP (VoIP) as part of a unified communications package for businesses.

The phones and devices, unveiled at the company’s WinHEC hardware engineer conference in Los Angeles, are designed to work with the public beta version of Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007. In March, Microsoft released interoperability specifications for the communications software to partners.

Gear makers teaming with Microsoft on the gadgets include ASUSTek Computer, GN, LG-Nortel, NEC Corp., Plantronics, Polycom, Samsung, Tatung and ViTELiX. The phones and devices include Internet Protocol (IP) phones, Universal Serial Bus (USB) phones, wired and wireless headsets, conferencing phones, LCD monitors, and laptops.

“Today’s office phone is marooned on an island, separate from the rest of the communications tools that information workers rely on to do their jobs,” Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division, said in a statement.

By offering a software solution to traditional business telephony, Microsoft claims companies will not have to replace their traditional phone systems to take advantage of new technology. They can also gain productivity benefits from less complexity and better management of their telephony systems, Raikes said.

“By weaving the business phone together with e-mail, instant messaging, presence, conferencing and the productivity software people use most, we are putting voice communications back into business,” Raikes said.

According to Microsoft, the telephones and devices will work out of the box with Redmond’s new communications software. The software platform works with an array of devices, phones, applications, services and common management tools through open, published interfaces and standards.

“The software-based VoIP technology built into Microsoft Office Communications Server and Microsoft Office Communicator will offer so much value and cost savings that it will make the standard telephone look like that old typewriter that’s gathering dust in the stockroom,” Raikes said.

Raikes pointed to a recent Harris Interactive Service survey as an example of the inefficiencies of most business telephone systems. The survey showed that two-thirds of business phone calls end in voice mail messages. As a result, Raikes said, 25 percent of workers spend the equivalent of three full workdays each year answering or dealing with voice mail messages.

By unifying and consolidating communications, Raikes said, businesses reduce expenses and open the door for other cost efficiencies.

“We’re embarking on a software transformation similar to what we saw from the mainframe to the PC,” Raikes said. “With a shift of this magnitude, there will be tremendous opportunities for our industry partners worldwide.”

Microsoft’s unified communications strategy puts it in direct competition with a number of networking vendors, especially Cisco Systems. Microsoft and Cisco partner on several fronts versus other vendors, but will compete in a unified communication space that has multi-billion-dollar potential.

Adapted from internetnews.com.

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