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Microsoft sets date with corporate IM

The company's Greenwich software, which will be renamed Microsoft Real Time Communications Server 2003, is due in the first half of the third quarter.

Microsoft on Thursday plans to announce that its Greenwich software will be renamed Microsoft Real Time Communications Server 2003, which it plans to roll out in the first half of the third quarter.

The new moniker describes the company's intent to provide real-time communications functions for the enterprise. As previously reported, the initial product will be an updated, secure version of the company's Windows Messenger instant messaging software designed for enterprises. IM is the foundation for Microsoft's vision of selling software that manages a company's communications functions.

"We're taking instant messaging as the first enterprise solution here," said Ed Simnett, lead product manager for Microsoft's real-time collaboration group. "Forming the cornerstone of that is...the idea that it really changes the way information workers do their jobs by seeing the presence of their co-workers."

Microsoft has said that future versions of the software will offer Internet phone calling, video conferencing and e-mail. The company believes that the Real Time Communications Server can manage all of these features for companies, while allowing developers to write software to run on top of Microsoft's product.

Real Time Communications Server will run on Windows Server 2003, Microsoft's biggest product launch this year, slated for April 24.

Microsoft executives have been aggressively evangelizing their real-time communications strategy. The company believes that real-time communications in the workplace is increasingly becoming Internet-based, whether through e-mail, IM or the new wave of Internet phones. Microsoft hopes that its software, led by Real Time Communications Server, will allow voice and data traffic to be managed, rerouted or stored depending on the worker's whereabouts and the device he or she is using.

Central to this vision is Microsoft's adoption of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which allows multiple forms of media, such as voice, video and data, to be exchanged with other SIP-enabled servers and devices. Last week, Peyton Smith, the general manager of Microsoft's embedded systems group, said SIP would be the "the disruptive technology that ushers this convergence" between a corporation's phone and computer system. He said traditional phones that are not SIP-based will "collect dust."

Indeed, Microsoft's vision for its Real Time Communications Server can only be realized in a SIP-enabled world.

Microsoft said its first version of Real Time Communications Server will support the SIP protocol for IM (called Simple), allowing it to interoperate with other IM products supporting Simple. However, Simnett said there are no interoperability deals pending.