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Microsoft is handing out presence

Company doles out server software code in effort to help business applications makers build new communications tools.

Matt Hines Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Matt Hines
covers business software, with a particular focus on enterprise applications.
Matt Hines
2 min read
Aiming to build support for its collaboration engine, Microsoft is opening up to rivals the ability to access its method for identifying whether colleagues are online.

The software giant on Thursday released sample code that will allow other software makers to tap into information from Microsoft's Office Live Communications Server 2005. The LCS product delivers presence information, which is data on whether colleagues are online and available for chatting or other online communication.

Microsoft said that a number of business applications specialists, including BrightWork, K2.net, Meridio, OSIsoft, Siebel Systems and Singularity, have already begun working with the technology. The effort is part of Microsoft's real-time collaboration, or RTC, initiative, which is aimed at driving the company's communications software deeper into such business tools..

Using the code released by Microsoft, the company said applications makers can add features such as presence identification, or the ability to see if a fellow worker is logged on to their computer, similar to the way contacts appear in a traditional instant-messaging environment. By integrating the code, built in Microsoft's Visual Studio format, the company said a software maker could essentially create a customized IM interface for people working in project management applications.

Microsoft rivals IBM and Oracle have also released new collaboration software offerings in the last several days.

Another example of the collaboration code at work could be seen in creating different types of automated alerts to inform employees when fellow workers have accessed or completed a team project, or to create IM sessions based on people's specific roles in handling customer service requests.

For instance, customer relationship management specialist Siebel Systems said it is using the Microsoft collaboration tools in its latest applications to help businesses more efficiently share different types of account information.

Microsoft executives said most large businesses are already looking at new ways to utilize collaborative tools to increase productivity and create a "real-time workplace" that transcends physical location. By giving software makers a platform for collaboration applications development, the company believes it can make its server software a vital element in delivering those types of systems.

"Enterprise instant-messaging activity is something that we're seeing greater pick-up of in the market," said Ed Simnett, group product manager at Microsoft. "We believe that IM will be as prevalent as e-mail in most corporations within the next four to five years."

Simnett said that onboard presence awareness and real-time communications applications will soon find their way into most kinds of business software. He said the Microsoft code allows applications makers to add collaboration technologies via a simple drag and drop interface.

"We get pushed very hard by our development community in this area but we think that we're just scratching the surface with what can be built," Simnett said. "The overall business benefit is around linking projects more closely together and allowing people to move around information a lot more intelligently."

Microsoft is making the code available via its communications development partner site.