The software maker is announcing Response Point, a computer-controlled phone system expected later this year. Microsoft has developed the software and is partnering with a number of device makers, including Uniden, D-Link and Quanta Computer, which will make the actual phones.
Jeff Smith, a senior product manager at Microsoft, said the new phones are designed to be simple enough that anyone who can run a PC can set up and manage the phone system. Rather than have multiple buttons for transferring calls and for checking voice mail, a single button will enable users to speak to identify the function they want. No need to remember extensions either, Smith said, since the software will know all the names in the company directory and be able to sync with Outlook desktop and Exchange server software.
Smith would not go into the pricing for the new phone system, which requires businesses to buy all-new equipment. For the past eight months, Microsoft has been testing the system with small businesses that have been using it free of charge.
Earlier this month,offered more details on . For that market, Microsoft is expanding its Live Communications Server's corporate instant-messaging product into Office Communications Server, a tool that can also manage large-business phone systems.
Smith said the two efforts share some technology underpinnings but Microsoft decided it made sense to offer a separate product to address small-business needs. The company is announcing the new phone product at its second annual Small Business Summit. Microsoft will have about 300 people on hand at an in-person event for day one of the summit, while the remainder of the five-day affair will take place as a series of Webcasts.