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Microsoft plays up PC-phone union

The company describes its vision of PCs and Internet-based phones working hand in hand as part of an overarching strategy to power real-time communications in the workplace.

NEW YORK--A Microsoft executive Wednesday detailed the software giant's vision of PCs and Internet-based phones working hand in hand as part of an overarching strategy to power real-time communications in the workplace.

Speaking at the AIIM Expo in New York, Gurdeep Singh Pall, general manager of Microsoft's real-time collaboration group, highlighted PC-to-phone integration as the holy grail of the company's strategy. The software giant is building software that will fold phone calling into the interactive PC environment.

"We're not focused on replacing the phone with a PC, but focused on bringing these two productivity devices together," he said.

Pall talked about how voice communications can become managed like data on a PC. He detailed scenarios in which workers can use a PC-like environment to make or receive calls, and in which calls can be routed to an employee's location and voicemail can be archived, indexed and browsed on-demand.

For example, Pall said the idea was to allow workers to right-click on a contact's name listed on a software interface, such as a buddy list in instant messaging application, and then immediately place a phone call, or click on other names to start a conference call.

Microsoft is beginning to unveil the grand scheme of its ambitious real-time communications strategy that will combine e-mail, voice, video conferencing and instant messaging under one software platform. Last week, Peyton Smith, another executive on the RTC team, stated that traditional phones were destined to "collect dust" now that computing and communications are converging.

Central to Microsoft's vision is its recently launched Greenwich server software, designed initially to offer secure instant messaging. Eventually, Microsoft plans to beef up Greenwich to include Internet voice calling and video conferencing that will allow enterprises to manage all their internal communications through Microsoft software.

Although Pall did discuss Greenwich during his speech, he highlighted how Microsoft's plans were coming together.

"Over the last year, we've worked on a strategy where real-time communications can be something big," he said.