Microsoft will release a public beta of new VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) server software by the end of this month.The software smoothly integrates with legacy phone networks and its Office application suite, the company says.
On the company's web site, users can register to download the beta versions of Office Communications Server 2007, as well as Office Communicator 2007, a client application for mobiles and desktops that enables instant messaging, voice and video.
Office Communications Server will compete with hardware and software VoIP products from companies such as Cisco Systems and Avay. Microsoft, however, is leveraging the wide use of its Office productivity suite and Exchange 2007 by integrating it with the new server, part of its "unified" communications strategy.
For example, users can launch a VoIP call by clicking on a person's name in Microsoft's Outlook email program or its Sharepoint Server 2007, a portal and collaboration tool, the company says. The embedded "presence" technology can determine whether a person is busy or not. Other options include web-based audio and video conferences.
Microsoft says companies won't have to rip out their existing private branch exchange (PBX) phone networks. Communications Server 2007 interoperates with PBX networks through session initiation protocol -- the protocol used for VoIP calls -- and works with different phones, devices and management tools, Microsoft says.