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March 19, 2007

Microsoft now does business phone systems

Posted by David Hunter at 8:32 PM ET.

This week Microsoft is hosting a Small Business Summit and the publicity is mostly a rehash of past announcements with a small business spin. However, there was some surprising new news – Microsoft Unveils Small-Business Phone System Software Designed for Ease of Use:

Today at the second annual Microsoft Small Business Summit, Microsoft Corp. unveiled a small-business Internet protocol (IP) phone system, code-named “Response Point,” designed for ease of use and manageability. The new system comes in an easy-to-install box, supports both voice over IP (VoIP) and traditional phone lines, and includes a voice-activated user interface.

Now in beta testing, “Response Point” will be generally available later this year in three models: D-Link DVX-2000, Quanta Syspine and Uniden Evolo. “I am proud and honored to work with leaders in the computing, telephony and networking fields to bring ‘Response Point’ to market,” said Xuedong Huang, general manager of the “Response Point” team at Microsoft. “Each of our OEM partners brings its own special expertise to our customers, allowing us to serve a much broader range of small businesses.”

OK, so Microsoft is just doing the software and D-Link, Quanta, and Uniden are the OEMs, but that’s a familiar model isn’t it? Aside from the novelty of Microsoft entering the business phone system market, the voice interface is something different:

Phone calls on the system are designed to be easy to make by pressing the “Response Point” button on the phone and telling the system who you want to call. For example, a user could say “Call Jeff at work,” and the system will dial that number based on the contact information entered into the Response Point directory, Smith said.

Response Point can be set up either as a VoIP system or one that uses traditional phone lines, he added.

The systems are intended to be easy to set up, also appealing to small businesses, but there’s also another novel facet of Response Point:

The team that built the Response Point system acted as an independently funded startup within Microsoft, which gave it the advantage of developing the product “from the ground up” for small businesses without having to work with other product teams, Smith said.

In addition, the team operated like a small startup company, allowing it to understand the needs of small businesses, said Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman, speaking on the video at the summit. “What they found is that what small businesses need is the ability to simplify the steps it takes to accomplish every day tasks,” he said. One example of how Response Point addresses that is the speech recognition feature, he said.

Aside from Steve Ballmer possibly considering this insane, one can’t help but wonder if this kind of “skunk works” is the hallmark of an organization grown too large. Remember IBM and how they had to develop the IBM PC?

In any case, the Response Point Home Page has more details.

Filed under Coopetition, D-Link, Embedded, Microsoft, Quanta, Response Point, Uniden

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