Your Business, Your Telephone, Your Computer and Microsoft

Currently Microsoft’s main ecosystem is the PC operating system – Windows is the operating system for PC’s and server, Microsoft Office is software for business productivity and Windows Mobile is for mobile communications and cell phones.

There’s an emerging market for Microsoft and other technology vendors (including Cisco) – telephone communications. This is not about replacing the phone but about offering a platform over which VOIP communications can be managed, integrated and enhanced.
It’s about enabling the phone to have more capabilities than it now has.
This includes, but is not limited to “presence”, conferencing, collaboration and more.
CRN has an extensive interview by Bill Gates here, where he says, In some sense you could say it’s interesting how long people have wanted to stay with their traditional PBX because it even though it wasn’t well integrated but it kind of worked. Now we’re showing people an evolutionary way to get these benefits [such as knowing when someone’s online and clicking their name to communicate] when they choose. They can actually drop the PBX all together and just have software running on the Windows server.
Microsoft’s telephony / VOIP ecosystem is comprised of four parts:
Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 Software that delivers VoIP, video, instant messaging, conferencing and presence within the applications people already know and use such as Microsoft Office system applications and upcoming versions of Microsoft DynamicsĂ´ ERP products and the Microsoft CRM release due later this year
Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 Client software for phone, instant messaging and video communications that works across the PC, mobile phone and Web browser
Microsoft Office Live Meeting. The next version of Microsoft’s advanced conferencing service that enables workers to conduct meetings, share documents, utilize video and record discussions from virtually any computer
Microsoft RoundTable A conferencing phone with a 360-degree camera that captures a panoramic view of meeting participants, tracks the speaker and can record meetings
Service pack update of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. The industry’s leading e-mail, voice mail, calendaring and unified messaging platform
What does this mean to your business?
If you want integration of your telephone and computer you can do this now, through a variety of solutions and companies such as Cisco, Fonality and Avaya. These companies work with local solution providers to offer custom solutions for your needs using the products of their partner vendors.
Some companies make hardware, which will work across any platform. Other companies create the platform and this is where the battle will be fought between Cisco, Fonality, Microsoft and others as it is and has been fought on the desktop between the world of Windows, Apple, Linux and hosted applications.
In the same way that Microsoft has built an ecosystem of hardware manufacturers and technology consultants for Windows and the PC, it is also building the same for emerging telephony play which it hopes will do much more for unified communications than can be done today.
Hardware vendors, software developers, local consultants telephony providers are all part of the ecosystem that Microsoft is building to deliver unified communications via a Microsoft platform.
I would HIGHLY encourage you to visit Microsoft’s UC web site here.
In a nutshell – in the same way that you can choose to use Microsoft software as the foundation for your business (collaboration, project management, server, etc), Microsoft wants its software to be the software of choice for telephony (connecting the PC and computer). If you receive a fax or voice mail, need to make a conference call or do instant messaging, whether email or call transfer, Microsoft’s vision is that it will be a seamless experience – using Microsoft powered software.
The decision for your business – is first and foremost how your company will use advanced telephony features for growth (to beat your competition, to serve customers better, and etc). Once you have this vision in mind you can then determine your needs and the best approach.
Maybe Microsoft is not best for you – maybe an open source solution (or non-Microsoft), developed and integrated with a local provider is fine. Maybe a service from Gotvmail or Ringcentral is just fine with a little spice of custom programming added. Or maybe your needs are a bit larger and you need a phone system, managed from a company like M5, which you could customize to leverage technologies from Microsoft or other platforms.
Instead of selling a piece of hardware for talking, expect more and more companies (at least the smart ones) to sell a SERVICE – to sell & service better.
(Thanks to my telcom / tech friends who added input to this article)