WebMessenger Mobilizes IM, Presence from Microsoft OCS

Where Microsoft’s competitive instincts might sometimes seem to close doors, they also occasionally leave a door open, as WebMessenger demonstrated earlier this week with the announcement of WebMessenger Mobile for Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS). The product – the latest of a family of such systems – lets BlackBerry users take advantage of presence and IM capabilities offered by Microsoft’s unified communications platform.

WebMessenger president Joe Naylor explained that a combination of ties to Microsoft as a Partner and Microsoft’s need to compete against RIM’s BlackBerry with its own Windows Mobile platform helped his company spot an opportunity.

“They [Microsoft] want to take RIM’s share of the market with their Windows Mobile Devices,” said Naylor, but because BlackBerry is heavily entrenched in a number of enterprises, he said the company faces a “long slog.”

In the mean time, said Naylor, Microsoft’s lack of support for BlackBerry devices was causing discontent in enterprises that were considering deployments of Microsoft OCS, especially in the financial industry. Its October, 2007 acquisition of Parlano in October, for instance, brought in a number of large financial sector accounts looking for IM support for their existing BlackBerry users.

According to Naylor, WebMessenger uses vendor-provided SDKs on the server side and a proprietary communications protocol providing strong encryption on the client side to interoperate with a number of enterprise communications servers, including OCS, Lotus SameTime, and Jabber XMPP.

In addition to offering better performance through device-specific software, Naylor said WebMessenger also optimizes client network performance, providing tweaks for specific mobile carriers and optimizing data queuing as users move in and out of data coverage.

WebMessenger’s BlackBerry client will connect with its server component (which runs on Linux or Windows Server 2003, though Naylor says most deployments are on the latter) via an organization’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES).

The WebMessenger server supports Active Directory and LDAP synchronization, allowing administrators to identify which users in an organization will require support. Once those users are identified, he said, the WebMessenger client is pushed to their devices via the organization’s BES. Since the WebMessenger server integrates with OCS, Naylor said users won’t have to reenter contact lists once they’ve downloaded the client.

Once connected to the organization’s OCS deployment, clients will be able to participate in a number of the server’s features, including presence notification, federation with other IM networks, connection with enterprise voice IP PBX platforms, participation in persistent group chat, and monitoring by the organization’s auditing and compliance tracking tools.

The product is available starting today at a cost of $72 per device, with no cost for the server. The software license is perpetual, with ongoing costs taking the form of a 20 percent maintenance fee.

Adapted from an article originally published on Instant Messaging Planet.

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