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Microsoft adds features to unified communications suite

The upgrade to Microsoft's Office Communications Server 2007 suite contains features targeted at driving IP-based communication within and outside of the enterprise, and reducing costs associated with travel and phone calls.

Features added to the suite include: audio conferencing for mobile workers, desktop sharing, group chat, attendant console and delegation, session initiation protocol trunking, an application for the management of incoming calls and single-number reach.

According to Bharat Mirchandani, business group lead, information worker business, business and marketing organisation, Microsoft Singapore, the extension of audio conferencing capabilities to workers on mobile devices such as smart phones will help cost-conscious companies shave travel budgets.

The audio conferencing function in the previous release of the communications suite was limited to PC users.

Features and uses

The new feature allows users to share their desktop and initiate audio communications with others outside of the organisation via a Web-based interface, regardless of whether the other party's operating system is Windows, Macintosh or Linux.

Group chat enables teams in different locations to participate in topic-based discussions over time. Discussions are periodically archived into XML file format in order to meet with compliance regulations. Users can also search the entire discussion history of a topic with the help of filters, while alerts notify users of new posts pertaining to a topic.

Attendant console and delegation allows users to manage calls and conferences on behalf of other users.

According to Mirchandani, session initiation protocol trunking enables cost reduction by setting up a direct voice over Internet protocol connection between an Internet telephony service provider and Office Communicator 2007 without on-premise gateways.

Extending mobile support

The latest release also extends the mobile version of Office Communicator to Motorola RAZR, Blackberry and Nokia S40 based devices, with support for Nokia S60-based devices which will be available in six months. Users of supported devices can communicate using presence, IM and voice as an extension of their PBX from a unified client. Previously, Windows Mobile-based devices were the only ones supported by the mobile version of Office Communicator.

Users of supported devices can also choose to be reached by a single number regardless of their location. This function is not available for Blackberry users.

The new release is available to customers on a licensing basis. Existing users of Office Communications Server 2007 R1 who purchased extended support will get a free upgrade.

According to Microsoft, the past six months have seen about 100 enterprises in the Asia Pacific deploying its unified communications products.

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