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Microsoft puts its spin on office chat

The proposed SIP standard is key to IM interoperability and to merging voice, data, video and messaging into a single system, says a Microsoft executive.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Information technology and telecommunications systems are converging in the corporation, and Microsoft hopes to play a key role in bringing the pieces together, according to a company executive.

In a keynote speech Tuesday at the Voice on the Net conference here, Microsoft executive Peyton Smith outlined the ways a corporation's phone system and computer system will operate under one common network. Central to this trend will be the adoption of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which is designed to enable companies to operate voice, data, video and messaging through a single system.

"SIP changes everything," Smith, the general manager of Microsoft's embedded systems group, said. SIP is "the disruptive technology that ushers this convergence in."

Smith's comments come just weeks after the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant introduced Greenwich, server software that will initially allow companies to support secure instant messaging using SIP. Future versions of Greenwich are expected to integrate other common enterprise applications supported by the proposed standard, such as voice calling over Internet protocol, video conferencing and collaboration.

Microsoft and other enterprise software companies, such as IBM's Lotus, have touted SIP as the main driver for instant messaging interoperability and as a foundation for bringing together various forms of communications under one server system.

SIP is a proposed standard under development by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for setting up, controlling and ending Internet sessions between two or more terminals.

The proposed standard uses an address system akin to that of e-mail that taps into the existing e-mail delivery infrastructure, such as DNS MX (domain name system mail exchange). One of SIP's most attractive features is its ability to set up sessions using a single, location-independent address even when the user changes terminals--a key element in establishing applications built around "presence."

SIP's instant messaging protocol is known as SIMPLE (Session Initiation Protocol for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions). Other proposed IM standards include XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol), of which start-up Jabber offers the best-known implementation.

But SIP goes much further than instant messaging, creating a system capable of supporting various services over a variety of communications protocols.

Indeed, Smith's comments highlighted Microsoft's view of how its software would allow different devices to exchange text and voice under one network based on the Internet Protocol. Features commonly associated with phones, such as voice calls, voice mail, call forwarding and the like, will become features within an IP-based corporate network.

As a result, Microsoft's Windows server software will run various applications that serve data to devices running the Windows XP operating system.

"A phone over will collect dust," Smith said. "Phones become less and less useful."