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Microsoft unveils unified communications platform

Microsoft has just announced a series of new products and upgrades to existing software which together will form a platform that promises to deliver unprecedented convergence among disparate communications technologies. Part of the "Office system 2007 wave of products," this combination of hardware and software will allow users to perform such tasks as checking their voicemail directly from Outlook or calling up an Exchange Server to have it email other participants of an impending meeting that they're going to be late. The move also sees Redmond making an even bigger push into Internet telephony in the form of the Office Communications Server 2007 package, which is a SIP-based platform that will allow seamless VoIP calling, videoconferencing, and instant messaging across a broad range of existing applications, services and devices, including the all-in-one Office Communicator 2007 -- available in desktop, web-based, and mobile flavors -- which just so happens to support voice, video, and chat as well. Finally, we'll see remote conferencing get a boost in the form of enhanced A/V capabilities and Office integration for Live Meeting, along with a new tool called RoundTable that employs a 360-degree camera for letting group web-conference participants view the entire remote team simultaneously. On the hardware side of things, Microsoft has partnered with HP and Motorola to provide support for the new platform, with HP delivering systems integration services and unspecified "enhanced products" and Moto throwing down compatible mobile devices and network equipment. While new versions of Exchange Server and Speech Server are on their way by the end of the year, the majority of the platform -- including IP desktop phones from Polycom, LG-Nortel, and Thomson to support the Office Communicator phone experience -- is not scheduled to roll out until sometime during Q2 of next year.

[Via The New York Times]