Microsoft plans unified communications update

Software maker's Office Communications Server has made inroads as a tool for corporate instant messaging. It still has a lot of ground to cover when it comes to telephony.

Ina Fried
Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
2 min read

Aiming to make further inroads into business telephony, Microsoft said on Tuesday that it is working on an update to its unified communications software.

Dubbed Office Communications Server 2007 R2, the release is currently in private testing and is slated to be released in February. The product, which will add group chat and screen-sharing technologies, comes roughly a year after Microsoft introduced the first version of its business telephony product.

Microsoft said that about half of Fortune 500 companies have at least one instance of Office Communications Server installed, but the company wouldn't give any sales estimates or say how many people are using the software to handle telephony as opposed to simply for corporate instant messaging.

"Where we are at with Office Communications Server, we have incredible acceptance and penetration from an instant messaging standpoint," Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop said in an interview. As for telephony, though he said Microsoft is still in the "early adoption" phase.

Elop declined to offer publicly any sales or unit targets for the new release, but said the software has exceeded internal forecasts so far.

"We still have steps ahead, (but) we're well on that journey," Elop said.

While some products are tougher to launch during tough economic times, Elop said OCS is the kind of product that can sell well into a slower market. In an interview on Friday, Elop said that such tough times play to Microsoft's strengths.

"It's at times like this that some of the most difficult technology decisions can be made," Elop said. "This is a disruptive technology that has value (and) lowers cost."