Microsoft to punch up corporate IM

Software giant prepares to launch Istanbul, its new desktop communications client.

Microsoft is beefing up its corporate instant-messaging product lineup with new extras like firewall traversal and collaboration, as it prepares to launch a new desktop communications client, possibly as early as Tuesday.

All the development work is an attempt to kick-start a market for corporate instant messaging, which hasn't grown as quickly as anticipated, although a growing number of businesses are increasingly making use of popular desktop IM clients.

On Monday, at the VON Spring 2005 Conference in San Jose, Calif., Microsoft is expected to trumpet a recent partnership with online collaboration provider Radvision and routing specialist Jasomi Networks. Radvision and Jasomi are essentially providing add-ons for Microsoft's Live Communications Server 2005 (LCS), which is software that initially launched as a way for companies to offer secure instant messaging to their employees. LCS has become a cornerstone of Microsoft's effort to expand its Office line beyond a mere collection of productivity applications.

Network security measures protecting many digitally connected houses, and nearly all business, wreak havoc on many Internet services, especially Internet phone services, video conferencing and presence, which is intelligently routing communications among various applications and devices. The two most troublesome issues stem from firewalls, which create a boundary between two networks, and network address translation (NAT), which shield Internet addresses from public view. Jasomi Networks makes equipment to solve the "NATs in the firewall" issue.

The new bundle of software is meant for telephone, cable and other kinds of service providers to use to "host" services for their business customers. A Canadian service provider is using the software, but Mark Sanders, a senior product manager with Microsoft, didn't reveal additional details during an interview.

"With today's media traffic, there are challenges when trying to penetrate firewalls and NATs," he said. "A hosted service provider doesn't want to worry about reaching its customers."

Microsoft on Tuesday is widely expected to unveil Istanbul, its new instant-messaging and real-time communications client, at a San Francisco event scheduled to be headlined by Chairman Bill Gates. Istanbul goes beyond IM by handling a variety of functions, such as viewing calendar information from Outlook, for example, to decide whether an incoming call should go to someone's desktop or mobile phone.

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