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Microsoft unveils Web phone hardware

Software giant introduces phones, headsets and other devices that work with its software with the intention of replacing the traditional office phone

Microsoft on Sunday introduced phones, headsets and other devices that work with its software with the intention of replacing the traditional office phone and delivering e-mails, instant messages and phone calls over the Internet.

Microsoft said it worked with nine technology manufacturers including Samsung Electronics and NEC to develop hardware to work with its unified communications strategy.

Instead of one system for phones and another for e-mails and instant messaging, Microsoft wants all communications to run over Internet networks on its Office Communicator program.

Microsoft forecasts that the shift to Web-based phone systems will gain momentum during the next three years, eventually generating billions of dollars in new revenue for the company.

The new hardware products will be unveiled at this week's Microsoft Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Los Angeles.

The new products include an Internet Protocol phone from NEC that connects to a computer's Universal Serial Bus and a Bluetooth headset that connects via wireless technology to the Office program made by LG-Nortel, a joint venture of LG Electronics and Nortel Networks.

Other hardware manufacturers working with Microsoft are ASUS, Plantronics, Polycom, Tatung and Vitelix.