Unified Communications: Uniting Communication Across Different Networks
Oct. 01, 2009
Eric Swift, general manager of the Unified Communications Group at Microsoft, talks about today’s Microsoft Office Communications Server news and Microsoft’s commitment to increase interoperability of its unified communications and collaboration solutions with products from other vendors.

REDMOND, Wash. — Oct. 1, 2009 — Microsoft today announced two new offerings for Microsoft Office Communications Server, which delivers streamlined communication for users to find and communicate with the right person, at the right time, from the applications they know and use most.

Eric Swift, general manager of the Unified Communications Group at Microsoft
Eric Swift, general manager of the Unified Communications Group at Microsoft
Image: Page

First, Microsoft is releasing the Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 XMPP Gateway at no additional licensing cost; it allows basic presence sharing and instant messaging (IM) with Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol networks Cisco Jabber and Google Talk. For Office Communications Server customers, this means Cisco Jabber and Google Talk users can now be part of Office Communications Server IM contacts. Starting today, the Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 XMPP Gateway can be downloaded here, while a video that explains how the Gateway works can be viewed here.

Second, Microsoft is changing its public instant messaging connectivity (PIC) license requirements for Office Communications Server connectivity to the Windows Live and AOL public IM networks. Now, customers with Office Communications Server 2007 R2 Standard CAL (or equivalent Software Assurance rights) will no longer require an additional license to connect with the millions of people who use Windows Live and AOL for instant messaging and presence. This change took place in July for Windows Live, and is scheduled for AOL in October 2009.

Eric Swift, general manager of Microsoft Unified Communications Group, talked with PressPass about today’s news and Microsoft’s commitment to increase interoperability of its unified communications and collaboration solutions with products from other vendors. He also discussed the latest significant developments in unified communications (UC), a valuable tool for business that brings together e-mail, calendaring, voice mail, instant messaging, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and conferencing for secured connectivity and communication with colleagues and customers.

PressPass: Why are these new developments important to unified communications?

Swift: People shouldn’t have to log into multiple IM networks and manage several different contact lists to reach the people they need to work with, and vice versa. With these advances in interoperability, we’re taking a step closer to creating ubiquitous IM and presence connectivity that narrows the remaining gaps in communicating and connecting with people across different networks. Providing a single identity allows Office Communications Server users to see their colleagues’ availability and make contact with these other communities, which is an essential requirement for business.

PressPass: In what other ways have you increased interoperability on the Microsoft unified communications platform?

Interoperability and the IP Licensing Ecosystem

An important part of Microsoft’s interoperability in unified communications centers on its Intellectual Property (IP) Licensing program. These IP licensing efforts include a specific Exchange ActiveSync IP Licensing Program, launched in 2003 to open access to Microsoft’s significant research and development investments and growing patent and IP portfolio. Companies of all sizes, geographic regions and industries, including Apple, Google, Nokia, Gecad Technologies and SmarterTools Inc., have licensed Exchange ActiveSync IP through this program.

Microsoft recently expanded its Exchange ActiveSync intellectual property licensing program in December by posting the protocols publicly. Now companies can immediately build prototype applications that sync with Microsoft Exchange Server and Exchange ActiveSync-enabled mobile phones, and also access details about licensing terms. The Exchange ActiveSync protocol documentation can be found on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN).

Swift: Last December we introduced the expansion of the Exchange ActiveSync IP licensing program, and for the first time publicly posted the technical documentation for protocols built on Exchange ActiveSync.

Last May, we also announced we’re working with HP to provide endpoint interoperability between HP Halo Telepresence Solutions and Microsoft Office Communications Server unified conferencing. In the future, Office Communicator users will be able to join Halo Telepresence sessions right from their computer. In addition, we have video integration with Tandberg and Polycom for teleconferencing and telepresence.

We also have 73 vendors signed up for the Microsoft Unified Communications Open Interoperability Program, qualifying their enterprise telephony infrastructure, including IP-PBX, PBX and PSTN Gateways and Carrier SIP Trunking services, with the Direct SIP interoperability available with Office Communications Server.

PressPass: Why is Microsoft working with competitors to advance interoperability in unified communications?

Swift: Now more than ever, customers want software vendors to do a better job of making their products work together, so we’re responding to meet that demand. We also have a strong commitment to interoperability with other vendors because of our shared vision to make business communications a simple, person-centric experience that is not closed within a specific network or technology. For example, this vision can be seen in the work done by IBM in its recent update to the company’s Sametime Gateway, to allow Sametime users to exchange presence information and instant messages with Office Communications Server users. Microsoft is also working with Cisco to connect to Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager via Direct SIP connectivity with Office Communications Server 2007 R2.

PressPass: What does the future look like for interoperability in unified communications?

Swift: I’m excited about the progress we’re making in presence interoperability with PBX systems and other server-based applications. Customers tell us they want an easy way to show the presence, or real-time availability status, of all users, including those who use traditional phones for voice calls. If someone is on a call, their presence information should show that. However, across the industry today, we don’t have a simple way to get this information from the PBX. So, we intend to make presence inquiries and updating possible through the universally adopted Session Initiation Protocol, which will provide PBX systems with the ability to access and set presence in future versions of Office Communications Server. The SIP/SIMPLE (Session Initiation Protocol for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions) standards also provide a presence interface that is ideal for a wide variety of business applications.

We also provide a versatile set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that let developers take advantage of the power of software-based communications in their products. Over the past 12 months, more than 150 independent software vendors (ISVs) have started building products on the Microsoft unified communications platform. We expect this deep integration of communications functionality in software will completely change how people and businesses communicate in the coming years.

Finally, we’ll continue to listen to customers, partners and competitors to find out what their priorities are in interoperability. Because there are always new interoperability scenarios and standards in development, our job is to make sure our product innovations are in step with these priorities and technologies so people have the best experience possible in unified communications.

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