• January 18, 2007
  • By Colin Beasty, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Transformer: More Than Meets the VoIP

Microsoft and Nortel Networks unveiled on Wednesday the first offerings from a unified communications alliance the companies launched in July 2006. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nortel CEO and president Mike Zafirovski introduced the three Innovative Communications Alliance (ICA) offerings and outlined plans to integrate their business communication product lines at a press conference in New York. The ICA's current offering--the Converged Office--lets users make VoIP calls, send instant messages, or check other users' online presence without having to toggle between applications. This is accomplished via the integration of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Exchange Server. Though Converged Office is currently available for SMBs, Microsoft announced that it would be available to enterprises by year's end. The companies also debuted three new offerings that will be available this year:
  • UC Integrated Branch, new hardware that will be available in the fourth quarter of 2007 to deploy the Converged Office unification of VoIP, email, instant messaging, and other communications across an enterprise's remote offices.
  • Native SIP interoperability between Nortel Communications Server 1000 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 that will be delivered by the second quarter of 2007. This offering also will include Nortel professional services to help companies design, deploy, and support the technology.
  • A combination of the Nortel Multimedia Conferencing and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 to allow for one client experience across applications such as email, voice, instant messaging, presence, and audio and video conferencing. This offering, which customers will use on-premise, will be available in the fourth quarter of 2007. Since announcing their partnership in July 2006, the two companies have been working on integrating business communications such as email, phone, instant messaging, and video conferencing on Internet networks. The push by Microsoft and Nortel into the business communications market will pit the companies against vendors such as Cisco Systems, IBM, and Avaya. Both companies claim these new offerings and all those introduced through 2009 are part of the first phase of the ICA, the primary focus of which is to allow for an integrated desktop experience for communications across the enterprise. However, in 2010 and beyond, the companies plan to integrate all of the back-end business processes, management, and administration of various forms of Web-based and telephony communication in the enterprise, Ballmer says. "Instead of there being a separate hardware and software stack, we pull all of that together," he said during the presentation. "If people want to write business applications that have communications integrated inside, we provide the same toolset--Visual Studio working with Exchange, Active Directory, the voice system. All of that gets integrated in the second phase." "The integration is a good move for Microsoft," says Daniel Hong, senior voice business analyst at Datamonitor. "By marrying Speech Server with Office Communications Server, Microsoft is reinforcing its mission to bring speech mainstream." Related articles: Microsoft and Nortel Deliver Unified Communications Avaya Launches Unified Communications "Edition"
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