Microsoft Tuesday added a voice specialization to its Information Worker competency and said it's recruiting partners with the skills to deploy unified communication solutions.
Microsoft's unified communication strategy is set to take off this fall with the launch of Office Communication Server 2007, the successor to Live Communication Server, which weaves together email, instant messaging, mobile and VoIP telephony, and videoconferencing.
The release will enable voice over IP and represents "a huge step" for Microsoft into the unified communication space, said Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Business Division Product Management Group.
In a keynote speech Tuesday at Microsoft's worldwide partner conference in Denver, Capossela described the partner opportunity around unified communication as "massive."
But launching Office Communication Server 2007 is only the first step. Microsoft also needs partners that can deliver VoIP and professional services necessary to make its unified communication strategy work.
In fact, Capossela said the search for professional services expertise around VoIP was one of the main motivations behind Microsoft's partnership with Nortel, which was unveiled last year.
Microsoft and Nortel are developing joint sales and marketing programs and building an ecosystem of ISVs, systems integrators and telephony partners to deliver joint solutions to customers.
"They wanted to transform their business into providing professional services around this space, and we need professional services deeply in this space," Capossela said.
One of the main challenges Microsoft faces with VoIP and unified communications is the fact that it requires the cooperation and teamwork of workers with different IT skills, Capossela said.