Microsoft to offer SMEs VoIP gear

Microsoft to offer SMEs VoIP gear

Microsoft has announced an IP telephony system that will give small offices a simple IP telephony system with advanced features found more commonly on midsize and corporate IP PBX systems.

Response Point, now in beta, is a Microsoft IP PBX software suite designed to run on purpose-built hardware from partners such as D-Link, Uniden and Quanta Computer, which will be available later this year.

Response Point is based on Microsoft's forthcoming Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 — a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based VoIP, instant messaging, presence and conferencing server due for release by midyear. Response Point-based appliances will include features similar to those found on key system telephone systems -- such as hold, conference and transfer -- as well as built-in voice mail, auto attendant, voice recognition and integration with Microsoft software. For example, the combination of contact integration with Microsoft Outlook and Response Point's voice recognition will allow users to dial colleagues and external contacts through voice commands. Integrated voice mail and email also will give users a single in-box for messages, Microsoft says.

Hardware partners D-Link, Quanta and Uniden will make appliances on which the Response Point software will run, and IP phones for users.

The D-Link DVX-2000, Quanta Syspine and Uniden Evolo appliances will include Ethernet ports for connecting to a small-office LAN. Response Point will include such set-up features as IP phone and service configuration wizards and auto-discovery of IP phones. The Response Point-based devices could be connected to a SIP-based internet telephony service provider for external phone service, or to a third-party VoIP gateway to connect to public switched telephone network services. Response Point will also support Microsoft Office Communicator soft clients.

Response Point will challenge Nortel and Avaya , which have long held sway over the small-business phone market, as well as Cisco's Linksys small and midsize business gear, and its own Cisco-branded SME VoIP gear. Nortel's Business Communications Manager 50 and Avaya's IP Office in particular will compete against the Response Point-based appliances and phones. The Microsoft-based VoIP gear will also compete against Cisco's Linksys-branded SME VoIP gear -- such as the LVS 9000 -- as well as its Linksysone brand of small-office gear, which is tied to VoIP service and support offerings. Cisco's Callmanager Express -- an IP PBX built into its branch/small office routers, as well as its Unified Communications Manager Business Editor, could also compete with Response Point.

The Response Point launch adds another wrinkle to the increasingly complex relationship Microsoft has with Cisco and other IP telephony vendors. At the VoiceCon show earlier this month, Microsoft announced broad interoperability partnerships with Avaya and Cisco, letting those vendors' IP PBXs and messaging products tie closely into Microsoft's Live Communication Server -- the predecessor to OCS 2007. At VoiceCon Microsoft also announced the public beta of OCS 2007, where the company's ambitions in enterprise VoIP became more evident.

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