Microsoft Corp. today opened a private beta of its new enterprise voice communications server, Microsoft® Office Communications Server 2007, to 2,500 IT professionals. Office Communications Server 2007 allows companies to integrate voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) technology into existing telephony infrastructure, eliminating the need for expensive network overhauls and also extending the useful life of existing investments. The new voice server will also allow workers to instantly launch a phone call from 2007 Microsoft Office applications, such as Office Word 2007, Office Outlook® 2007 or Office Communicator, by simply clicking on a colleague’s name to determine his or her availability and initiate a person-to-person or multiparty call.
With native support for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator, part of the 2007 Microsoft Office system, interoperate with products from industry partners including Nortel Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., LG-Nortel Co. Ltd., Mitel Networks Corp., NEC Philips Unified Solutions, Polycom Inc. and Siemens Communications Inc. Through these relationships, customers worldwide will be able to support VoIP using their existing desktop phones, data networks and time division multiplexing (TDM) or Internet protocol (IP) private branch exchanges (PBXs). Customers will also able to leverage the softphone capabilities of Office Communicator to make and receive phone calls from their PCs, eliminating the need to purchase expensive IP-compatible phones.
Microsoft is being coy about an availability date, but Office Communications Server (which had a shotgun wedding with Exchange in January) is key to Microsoft’s Unified Communications push. There’s also a Q&A on the whole lashup here.