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Private Beta Begins for Voice Server 2007

Microsoft said this week it has begun a private beta for its enterprise voice communications server, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, sending it out to 2,500 IT professionals.

Office Communications Server 2007 -- the name of the previous product used to include the word "Live" -- now enables customers to integrate voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) technology into existing telephony infrastructure, eliminating the need for expensive network overhauls and also extending the useful life of existing investments, according to company statements posted on Microsoft's Web site.

The new server will also let users launch phone calls from within Office 2007 applications, including Word 2007, Outlook 2007 and Office Communicator. By clicking on a colleague's name to determine his or her availability, users will be able to initiate person-to-person or multiparty calls.

Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator both support Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) so that they can interoperate with products from industry partners. These include Nortel Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco Systems, LG-Nortel, Mitel Networks, NEC Philips Unified Solutions, Polycom, and Siemens Communications, the statements said.

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced its plans to create a unified communications framework that provides single user identity across all modes and integrates communication into people's everyday work processes.

In tandem with Exchange Server 2007, which was released to manufacturing late last week, Office Communications Server delivers e-mail, VoIP telephony, instant messaging, video and conferencing. Exchange Server 2007 provides the e-mail messaging and mobility features that integrate with Office Communications Server 2007.

“[With] Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, I can simply click on a person's name in an e-mail to initiate a telephone call, and a subject line is displayed on that person's phone to indicate exactly what I'm calling about,” said Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of Microsoft's unified communications group, in a statement online.

“[In] another example, if an e-mail topic is urgent, and I see that the person who sent the email is at her desk, and with one click, I can go directly from the e-mail into an instant messaging conversation or a phone call with her...[or] I can drag and drop another person's name into the conversation for a conference call. With another click, I could initiate a Web conference or a video call,” Gupta added.

Additionally, when users enter a Microsoft Office SharePoint team site, they can view the availability of other team members. The products share a single conversation history folder that tracks not only the e-mails that a user has sent but also the instant messages and telephone calls.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services,, and .NET magazines. Contact him at stuartj1@mindspring.com.

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