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Q&A: Microsoft Delivers Voice Technologies in Unified Communications Platform

The head of Microsoft’s Unified Communications Group tells how the company is simplifying the ways in which people work by bringing voice technologies to Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Exchange Server 2007

E-mail, voice mail, cell phone, instant messaging, conferencing – all these different modes of communication, which are supposed to make people easier to reach, can instead cause information overload. Information workers are becoming overwhelmed by the complexities of dealing with multiple phone numbers, voice-mail boxes, user identities, passcodes and device requirements.

Six months ago, Microsoft unveiled its vision and technology road map for solving these issues with a unified communications framework that gives people a single identity across all modes and integrates communication into people’s everyday work processes. Today, Microsoft Unified Communications Group (UCG) is delivering significant elements of this framework with the private beta release of its enterprise voice communications product, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007.

Together with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, which the company launched on Nov. 30, Office Communications Server delivers to customers e-mail, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) telephony, instant messaging, video and conferencing in an intuitive, streamlined experience. PressPass asked Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of the Unified Communications Group (UCG) at Microsoft, for more details about how these technologies address business challenges in today’s mobile, global environment.

PressPass: How is the UCG doing since you outlined its unified communications strategy and vision in June?

Gupta: We’ve made great progress delivering on Microsoft’s unified communications roadmap that brings voice, video, e-mail and instant messaging together. In addition to today’s release of the Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 private beta, which delivers VoIP capabilities, we launched Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, which brings our customers unified messaging, enhanced mobility and a simple way to manage their communications infrastructure.

Organizations like Columbia Sportswear Co., FranklinCovey and Marquette University are already deploying Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 as their unified communications foundation on the strength of Microsoft’s vision and in-market products. FranklinCovey deployed Exchange Server 2007 for about US$100,000 less than it would have spent upgrading its existing voice-mail system, and gained a more efficient, unified messaging system without changing its voice infrastructure.

PressPass: What else makes the delivery of these voice technologies significant for Microsoft customers?

Gupta: Today, many businesses and workers contend with what I call “communications chaos” from having silos of e-mail, instant messaging and voice-mail. With the added complexity of all the different mobile solutions out there, people are getting overwhelmed. What the Microsoft unified communications products do is weave these diverse modes together in an uninterrupted, secure and simple-to-use experience. Microsoft Office Communications Server and Exchange Server 2007 are the first products that bring voice capabilities into Microsoft communications software. What’s also significant is that we are delivering these new capabilities within the applications, devices and network infrastructure that people already know and use. These products provide more flexibility and greater access for today’s increasingly mobile workforce while also streamlining companies’ IT investments and management requirements.

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Q&A: Microsoft Delivers Voice Technologies in Unified Communications Platform

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