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Microsoft's Unified Communications Play

The Upshot

Microsoft's Office Communication Server 2007 integrates IM, VoIP, video and audio conferencing, Web conferencing and presence into one package. It aims to provide a complete messaging solution for business. Microsoft has tied OCS into Exchange and SharePoint, offering a high level of presence management for the enterprise.

OCS 2007 offers more compelling features over its predecessor, LCS 2005, and catches up to the feature set offered by Lotus Sametime and others. Small and medium enterprises may want to explore it as a VoIP platform, while larger enterprises may be attracted to it as a corporate IM system.
The product boasts good integration of IM with Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, offering features and capabilities beyond public IM clients. It also offers solid VoIP capabilities and can serve as an IP PBX or complement an existing VoIP platform. It lacks persistent Group Chat, and deployment can be complex. Google or Jabber integration would also be welcome.

Unified communications integrates voice, e-mail, IM and presence. It aims to improve productivity by providing one platform that lets employees communicate using the most appropriate medium.

Microsoft's Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 is the company's flagship UC offering. A revamped version of Live Communication Server 2005, the heart of the product is its IM capabilities. Many employees use public IM clients available from AOL, Yahoo and others. This can present regulatory and compliance problems for enterprises, which makes an in-house system more attractive. OCS sweetens the deal with tight integration of Exchange and Outlook, which extends the presence feature of IM to other mediums.

It also adds features such as audio, video and Web conferencing that weren't available in the software's previous incarnation. Users can initiate conferences from their desktop and include employees in the same building or across the country.

Microsoft has also integrated with Cisco, Avaya and Nortel and others to provide a voice mail and call routing system right from your Windows desktop, essentially turning your PC into a VoIP soft-phone.

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