Microsoft updates corporate IM

"Istanbul," part of the company's Live Communications Server 2005, weaves in features commonly found in Outlook.

Microsoft on Tuesday announced enhancements to its corporate instant-messaging service that will weave in features commonly found in the company's Outlook e-mail software.

The new enterprise IM client, code-named Istanbul, resembles the Windows Messenger software that's currently found in Windows XP. The difference is that a user's IM information is synchronized with Outlook's calendar and scheduling information. Istanbul further connects to common desk phones and serves up an alert when someone calls. People can then route the call to their cell phone or voice mail box.

Istanbul is a feature within Microsoft's Live Communications Server 2005, software that initially launched as a way for companies to offer secure IM to their employees.

With Istanbul, Microsoft is taking another step toward incorporating IM "presence" into its other popular products such as Outlook and Microsoft Office. Presence technology is designed to let people channel phone calls and other correspondences to their phone or Internet device of choice. It tells other contacts where those same people can be reached when they're offline or whether they can be reached at all. Future applications will include Internet voice calling and the ability to set up live meetings with other contacts using LCS.

"It's about bridging geographies and helping teams work together," said Ed Simnett, lead project manager for real-time collaboration at Microsoft.

Simnett added that the new features found in Istanbul can be used only if companies install LCS 2005, currently in beta, and Exchange server software. LCS 2005 is expected to be launched by the end of the year, he added.

Future additions to Istanbul will include links to the buddy lists of Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger and America Online's Instant Messenger. All three companies struck an agreement to allow their IM clients to link to LCS. The three services, however, remain closed from communicating with one another.

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