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Microsoft touts telecom ties

What at one time would seem like an odd place for Microsoft to have a high profile now seems to make perfect sense--and it all comes down to money.

    ATLANTA--What at one time would seem like an odd place for Microsoft to have a high profile now seems to make perfect sense--and it all comes down to money.

    The company's president, Steve Ballmer, touted Microsoft's emerging role as a provider of software for the telecommunications industry here at this week's Supercomm trade show, leaving no doubt that the company's ever-present Windows operating systems will play a prominent role in the telecom boom.

    Insisting its central mission continues to be making software, the giant has nonetheless sought stakes in all corners of the telecommunications world, making huge bets in recent months on broadband technologies, wireless service providers, even dropping $5 billion into AT&T.

    "We've decided to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak," Ballmer told a packed hall here. "We are very convinced that the nature of what we do is more affected by broadband access than anything else going."

    The executive said the investments are not intended to "color" Microsoft's software mission and will be used to "bootstrap" the telecommunications industry so more people can take advantage of high-speed networking technologies.

    "We just want to see the markets move more quickly," Ballmer said.

    In connection with Microsoft's telecom thrust, the company rolled out a new Windows NT-based Active OSS (Operations Support Systems) software framework for telecommunications applications developers. The new development focus is based on the company's Component Object Model (COM) set of tools for building Windows-based applications.

    Rival Sun Microsystems has similar plans to target the telecommunications industry with its Java programming language, as previously reported.

    As expected, the company also rolled out a small business-focused technology bundle with long distance carrier Sprint.

    And Microsoft announced plans to demonstrate a carrier-class network scheme with data equipment provider Fore Systems that includes the use of Windows NT Server, the company's operating system for corporations.

    All Microsoft's recent moves add up to the expanded use of PC technology into the high-end communications world, according to Ballmer. "The key is for the model to translate well in the high-end of the market," he said.

    Ballmer's speech follows yesterday's release of the company's Office 2000 productivity suite, a version souped up to take advantage of the Internet. In conjunction with that debut, Ballmer said the company would partner with service providers Verio and Concentric Network to deliver network-based services using the Office update.

    Separately, telecom and data equipment provider Nortel Networks said it would provide its CallPilot unified messaging software system for the next release of Microsoft Exchange, code-named Platinum. The CallPilot software can centralize all fax, voice mail, and email communications, according to the company.