Last January, Microsoft merged Exchange and Real-Time Collaboration (RTC) groups to form the Unified Communications Group (UCG) under corporate VP Anoop Gupta, and yesterday the group had a gala introduction of their upcoming enterprise offerings for unifying all of the forms of business communication. Press release:
June 25, 2006 – Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division, today unveiled the company’s vision, technology road map and partner framework for unified communications at a strategy event in San Francisco. Microsoft Corp.’s approach to unified communications will break down today’s silos of e-mail, instant messaging, mobile and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) telephony, and audio-, video- and webconferencing. Through software, Microsoft and its partners will put people at the center of communications through a single identity across all modes and integrate communication into people’s everyday work processes, including the widely used Microsoft® Office system and third-party software applications.
Raikes was joined onstage by Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Unified Communications Group, to demonstrate key capabilities of the new and updated servers, services and devices:
• Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, a robust, flexible, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) standards-based real-time communication platform that enables presence-based VoIP call management; audio-, video- and webconferencing; and instant messaging communication within and across existing software applications, services and devices.
The former name was Live Communications Server so some branding confusion got sorted out as well.
• Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 unified messaging goes beyond e-mail and today’s stand-alone voice-mail systems to deliver a unified inbox experience that includes e-mail, voice mail and faxing functionality, as well as new capabilities such as speech-based auto attendant allowing users to access their communications from any phone.
• Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, a unified communications client that works in tandem with Office Communications Server 2007 to deliver a presence-based, enterprise VoIP “softphone”; secure, enterprise-grade instant messaging that allows for intercompany federation and connectivity to public instant messaging networks such as MSN®, AOL and Yahoo!; one-to-one and multiparty video- and audioconferencing; and webconferencing. As with the previous versions, Office Communicator 2007 will be available in desktop, browser-based and Windows Mobile®-based versions.
Yet another promise of IM interoperation.
• Microsoft Office Live Meeting, a rich conferencing service designed to help users more effectively collaborate, conduct training and deliver presentations using just a PC and an Internet connection. Improvements to Office Live Meeting include support for e-learning, enhanced audio and video capabilities including VoIP, a streamlined user interface, seamless integration with the Microsoft Office system and simpler deployment.
• Microsoft Office RoundTable™, an audio-video collaboration device with a unique 360-degree camera. When combined with Office Communications Server 2007, RoundTable delivers an immersive conferencing experience that extends the meeting environment across multiple locations. Meeting participants on site and in remote locations gain a panoramic view of everyone in the conference room as well as close-up views of individual participants as they take turns speaking.
This appears to the be a productization of Microsoft’s Research’s Ringcam prototype.
• Microsoft Office Communicator phone experience, Communicator-based software designed to run an innovative set of new voice and video devices – including business-enabled IP desktop phones – from Polycom Inc., LG-Nortel Co. Ltd. and Thomson Telecom. This is a new ecosystem designed to run on dedicated communications devices in tandem with Office Communications Server 2007 to extend and enhance the Microsoft unified communications experience.
• PC peripheral devices, such as USB handsets, wireless USB headsets, USB webcams and PC monitors with built-in audio and video components. Devices from industry partners GN Netcom Inc., Logitech, Motorola, Plantronics Inc., Samsung and Tatung Co. will work with Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 to deliver a compelling communication experience on the PC.
IBM will announce Monday that Lotus Sametime, version 7.5, the company’s instant messaging and collaboration tool, will integrate with Microsoft Outlook, Office, and SharePoint applications.
The company also said Sametime 7.5 will directly connect to mobile Research in Motion (RIM), Nokia, and Windows Mobile devices.
The announcement is being made on the same day that Microsoft is expected to unveil its unified communications strategy and the timing is not coincidental, according to Matthew Brown, a senior analyst at Forrester.
“This is a full frontal assault on Microsoft’s communications strategy,” Brown said.
“Full frontal assault” seems a trifle overheated.
Related Microsoft press releases:
• Global Telecommunications Providers to Build Innovative Business IP Phones on Microsoft’s Unified Communications Platform
• Microsoft and Siemens Collaborate to Usher in New Era of Unified Communications
• Microsoft, HP to Work Together to Deliver Unified Communications Solutions to Enterprise Customers
• Microsoft and Motorola Form Strategic Alliance to Extend Unified Communications to Mobile Devices
• Q&A: Microsoft’s Unified Communications Strategy and Solutions
• Q&A: Microsoft Speech Server’s Growing Adoption in the Enterprise
Microsoft Corp. today announced the worldwide availability of Windows® CE 5.0 Networked Media Device Feature Pack, an optional set of software components designed to lower the total cost of development for device-makers wanting to create next-generation networked media devices (NMDs) and Internet protocol set-top boxes (IP STBs), which will become an increasingly integral part of the digital home. The Microsoft® Windows CE 5.0 Networked Media Device Feature Pack supports a broader range of video formats, PlaysForSure™ certification and digital video recorder (DVR) functionalities, and helps developers focus their time on device differentiation and innovation instead of middleware licensing and integration.
The Windows CE 5.0 Networked Media Device Feature Pack is being launched with worldwide support from consumer electronics companies such as Amoi Electronics Co. Ltd., HUMAX Co. Ltd., Media Excel Inc., Microsoft TV and Motorola Inc., many of which will bring to market new Windows CE 5.0 Networked Media Device Feature Pack-based devices this quarter. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) across the globe, including U.S.-based Cisco Systems Inc. and Taiwan-based Tatung Co., currently use Windows CE 5.0 to develop STBs supporting the Microsoft TV Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) Edition software platform.
The net seems to be that Microsoft is providing these features for free so that their Windows CE OEMs don’t have to integrate a bunch of 3rd party code. Windows CE is also used in a variety of portable consumer electronics devices besides the set-top boxes.
The Bill Gates (et al.) keynote is still going on as I write this, but the press releases are out. The overview in Microsoft Showcases Windows Innovations to Help Customers Navigate Through the Digital “World of More” is frankly rather clearer than the rushed presentation (narrative version here). Skipping to the new news:
DIRECTV. Microsoft and DIRECTV Inc. will announce a multiyear agreement that will enable the flow of DIRECTV digital content between Windows-based PCs, DIRECTV’s digital set-top boxes, PlaysForSure™ devices and the Xbox 360 system. Consumers will also be able to use a Media Center PC to enjoy high-definition DIRECTV content.
Sky Networks. Microsoft and British Sky Broadcasting (Sky), the leading pay-TV provider in the U.K. and Ireland, today announced an agreement to create a Media Center PC version of Sky’s forthcoming broadband content service, Sky by broadband. The core service will allow millions of Sky TV customers to access video content via the PC, with hundreds of movies to download and hundreds of sports clips to stream.
URGE music service. MTV Networks’ forthcoming digital music service, URGE, will be deeply integrated into Windows Media Player 11 and offer more than 2 million songs from the major labels and thousands of independents, as well as exclusive MTV Networks programming and original content. URGE will also be available through Windows Media Player 11 for Windows XP.
URGE has it’s own press release, but the bottom line is that it offers a subscription service as well as individual item purchases.
For Media Center PC’s there are a variety of content deals with Comedy Central’s MotherLoad, mtvU, Showtime Interactive, Turner Broadcasting System Inc.’s GameTap, and VH1 VSPOT. There are also some new Windows Live services for Media Center:
Live.com TV gadgets. Live.com provides the ideal location for services that make it easier to find and manage TV-related experiences across multiple devices. Customers can easily see TV programs scheduled for recording along with best bets. These services provide a window into one’s Media Center PC from almost anywhere in the world.
Live.com TV recommendations. Live.com enables customers to easily rate shows they’ve watched on their TV via their Media Center PC. As users rate more shows, they get better, more personalized TV recommendations, which they can share with their community.
Finally, there were the gadgets:
Toshiba America Inc., Tatung Co. and LG Electronics have signed up to venture into the difficult territory of Portable Media Centers albeit with new media services like Starz.
Update: Peter Moore came on at the end with a rapid fire list of Xbox 360 facts and figures, but the big one is that they expect to ship up to 5.5 million units by June and have added a 3rd manufacturer to increase supply.