Microsoft acquires Net-calling start-up

Purchase of Swiss firm should bolster Microsoft's corporate instant messaging push.

Microsoft announced on Wednesday that it has acquired a small company that specializes in voice communication over the Web, the second acquisition it's made in that market in recent months.

The purchase of Media-streams.com, a 23-employee firm based in Zurich, Switzerland, gives Microsoft a set of business applications that tap voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. VoIP services let people place phone calls over the Internet, usually at a discount to traditional phone services.

The deal, the financial terms of which were not disclosed, follows Microsoft's acquisition of Internet calling start-up Teleo in August. While Teleo's technology is aimed at consumers and has been incorporated into MSN, Media-streams' applications are designed for businesses. Microsoft plans to link the software to its corporate instant message system and Office productivity applications.

Ed Wadbrook, director of VoIP strategies for the Real-Time Collaboration Group at Microsoft described some ways customers can use the combined products. For instance, a call center agent could open an e-mail about a problem in Microsoft Outlook and simply highlight and right-click on the sender's name to initiate a Web call with the person. With a few more clicks, the agent could conference in another party or start troubleshooting the problem remotely, he said.

In a separate announcement , Microsoft showed off the ability to make VoIP calls from within its Windows Live Messenger on Tuesday. That software is slated to be in beta by December.

As for Media-streams' technology, the company plans to fold it into Microsoft Office Live Communications Server, a corporate instant messaging system, next year. It also plans to tie the technology into Microsoft Office 12 , due in the second half of next year, Wadbrook said.

Live Communications Server already enables PC-to-PC VoIP capabilities. Technology from Media-streams will help Microsoft add PC-to-phone, phone-to-PC as well as phone-to-phone capabilities, Wadbrook said.

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    Alorie Gilbert
    writes about software, spy chips and the high-tech workplace.
     

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