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Microsoft launches unified communications software

Microsoft fulfilled its promise of entering the unified communications space with the global launch of Office Communications Server 2007 yesterday

Microsoft fulfilled its promise of entering the unified communications space with the global launch of Office Communications Server 2007 yesterday.

Beta versions of the server have been in circulation since March, with a download uptake of around 80,000, according to corporate vice president of Microsoft's PMG business division, Chris Capossela.

The product offers software-based VoIP, web conferencing and enterprise instant messaging for businesses. Microsoft is currently working with hardware vendors on devices like USB phones, of which they have some examples, and their camera offering, Roundtable.

"Roundtable is essentially a bunch of cameras on a stalk, and these are able to shoot a full meeting room and can stitch together a 360-degree view of all the people in the room. So if an employee is at home and joining a meeting room full of people at work, Roundtable can show her that panorama. She can see everyone around the room, and whoever is speaking, the Roundtable device can detect them and her box-out on the screen will show them," says Capossela.

The new software will only run on Windows Server and Capossela adds, "We don't have any plans to bring it to Linux servers or any others." He claims that those already using Windows Server are "a very big market" to target.

The unified communications software was launched in San Francisco by Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates and Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft Business Division.

"In the next decade, sweeping technology innovations driven by the power of software will transform communications," claimed Gates.

Raikes added, "Unified communications software will transform business communications as fundamentally as e-mail did in the 1990s."

In a separate announcement today, infrastructure vendor Nortel revealed that it plans to be first-to-market with a portfolio of unified communications solutions and applications built around Microsoft’s new Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007. As the only IP-PBX manufacturer currently testing with Microsoft’s development team, Nortel and Microsoft are already trialing these applications with customers worldwide.

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