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Microsoft, Siemens push to collaborate

Software tools for enhanced Web conferencing and communication are part of push toward "presence."

Microsoft and Siemens Communications Group announced a partnership Tuesday to market and sell a suite of software tools for enhanced corporate Web conferencing and communication.

Under the multiyear agreement, Siemens will integrate its HiPath OpenScape Telephony Control Link with Microsoft's Office Live Communications Server 2005 and "Istanbul" instant messaging client.

The integration will allow Microsoft Office users to click their mouse to make a phone call through a PBX or Internet-PBX connected phone sold by Siemens or other phone vendors. The technologies are designed to work with a typical desk phone, alerting users when a call comes in, then routing the call to a recipient's cell phone or voice mailbox. The Istanbul client synchronizes with Outlook's calendar and scheduling information to provide further information on finding the recipient.

The OpenScape telephony control link and Istanbul client will be available in the first half of this year and will be added to existing product lines. Pricing has not yet been released.

Sales representatives from both companies will meet with customers jointly but will represent their own products respectively, said Adam Moise, a Siemens Communications business development manager. He noted that the companies have not entered into a reseller agreement.

The partnership will further bolster efforts by Microsoft and Siemens to enhance the ways workers communicate with each other.

Microsoft's Live Communications Server 2005 and Istanbul will work with the software giant's Web conferencing service, Office Live Meeting. Combined, the technologies will be able to integrate telephony, video, instant messaging and Web conferencing into a suite of software tools. Siemens' HiPath OpenScape, meanwhile, is a collaboration portal that allows workers using a variety of devices from work phones to cell phones to locate one another and communicate.

The package of tools is part of a push toward "presence," in which people's computers help others make smarter choices about how to reach them. Instead of filling up voice mail, for example, correspondents will see that someone is in a noncritical meeting and shoot him or her a discreet IM. Presence is moving closer to implementation, although it's still likely to be several years before it's widely used.

"Our customers tell us they need to find and communicate with people in real time, and they need to successfully work together without having to be in the same place," Anoop Gupta, vice president of Microsoft Real-Time Collaboration, said in a statement. "Microsoft and Siemens are dedicated to delivering to our customers the industry's most enhanced presence and collaboration solutions."