Microsoft plans to add voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), collaboration and Web presence enhancements to the next version of its unified communications software, which is due out in early February 2009.
Microsoft on Tuesday revealed details of Office Communications Server 2007 Release 2 (R2), which customers should be able to download on Feb. 3, 2009, at the VoiceCon show in Amsterdam. The software is currently in private beta testing.
Released just last year, OCS 2007 is the first software from Microsoft for making VoIP a part of integrated communications services alongside corporate instant messaging, e-mail, and videoconferencing, all running on one IP network. It works in conjunction with Office Communicator 2007, its accompanying desktop software.
In terms of OCS 2007's R2 VoIP capabilities, Microsoft will make it far easier for mobile users and what it calls "nomadic" workers -- or people who often work away from their usual office desk -- to use a mobile phone as an extension of their fixed telephone line, said Moz Hussain, a director of product management at Microsoft.
This capability will be added as part of the Office Communicator for Mobile feature, which integrates a variety of unified communications features -- such as accessing voicemail and e-mail and identifying the Web presence of people in contacts lists -- on workers' mobile phones, he said.
With the enhancements to the feature, "when you are initiating a call from a mobile device, to the person you're calling, it looks like you're calling from your office," Hussain said.
Users also will be able to look up the status of people's Web presence on Office Communicator on certain mobile phones -- namely, Nokia S40, Motorola Razr, and Research In Motion Blackberry devices -- through Office Communicator for Mobile. Nokia S60 series phones will also have the capability about six months after OCS 2007 R2's release, he said.
Microsoft also is adding a new client application to OCS 2007 R2, called the "Attendant Console," which makes it easier for office receptionists to receive incoming calls and route them through Office Communicator, he said.
Improved collaboration features in OCS 2007 R2 will include the ability to host dial-in telephone conferences that can integrate Web-conferencing and videoconferencing features using the Office Communicator client, Hussain said. Currently, you can only make VOIP calls from a PC using the software.
Microsoft also will give people the ability to share desktops during remote conferences, so a user can give someone in another location access to his or her desktop from a remote PC, he said.
Another feature that will be new in OCS 2007 R2 is the ability for developers to add Web presence information to any client application using the software, Hussain said.
For example, if someone uses a CRM (customer relationship management) application, he or she might be able to see who from a particular account team is online through the interface of that application without having to use the Office Communicator client or another chat application, he said. The person can also contact them through the client without having to fire up another chat application or use Office Communicator, Hussain said.
This feature is available for a variety of third-party client applications, not just ones from Microsoft, he added.