Next month Microsoft is planning to ship the first public beta of Office Communications Server 2007, which is key to the company's voice and unified messaging strategy.
At the same time the company also plans to ship a public beta of Office Communicator 2007, the client software for OCS 2007 according to the Microsoft Unified Communications & RTC User Group in the UK.
Microsoft officials would not comment on the beta release cycle.
Microsoft began a private beta of OCS 2007 in December with 2500 IT professionals. The company also hosted a Technology Adoption Programme Summit that month for 250 IT representatives from 100 companies.
Final shipment of OCS is slated for mid-2007. Sources say the server should be generally available in June.
At the time of the summit, Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Microsoft's unified communications group, said in a statement, "The convergence of telecom and data networks is happening rapidly. Software will integrate these two worlds, enabling IT managers to deliver new communications possibilities that include VoIP."
With the release of the OCS 2007 public beta, a wider swath of corporate users will get a chance to test that proclamation.
Microsoft is touting OCS 2007 as the platform that lets companies integrate VoIP technology into existing telephony infrastructure. OCS, which features native support for the Session Initiation Protocol, lets users instantly launch a phone call from Office 2007 applications, such as Word, Outlook, or Office Communicator, by clicking on the highlighted name of another user.
Microsoft is positioning OCS 2007 alongside Exchange 2007, which was released late last year, as a unified messaging platform. Exchange integrates with OCS 2007 to support its built-in auto-attendant for answering and routing inbound voice calls, as well as its unified messaging that combines voice mail and e-mail in a single in-box.