A brief rundown on Microsoft Office Communicator Server

FAQs about Microsoft's forthcoming Office Communicator Server

Microsoft released the public beta for its Office Communicator Server 2007 this week. Here are some key facts about the product.

What is OCS?

OCS 2007 is the centerpiece of Microsoft's unified communications strategy to bring together e-mail, instant messaging, presence, voice and video. It is a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based server that routes and switches IP-based voice traffic, as well as instant messaging and Web conferencing sessions. With Microsoft's Office Communicator client technology front-ending the server, the need for an IP-PBX is radically diminished.

What are Microsoft's goals?

As usual, they are grand. Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business group, said last week, "Within three years, more than 100 million people will be able to make phone calls from Microsoft Outlook, SharePoint, and other Microsoft Office Systems applications; and customers will be able to gain this value with VoIP solutions that are half the cost of what they are today." Of course, he didn't say users will be making those calls, only that they will be able to, but you get the picture.

What is the big deal?

Software like OCS represents a revolution in the telephony space in terms of infrastructure. It is a move away from the PBX and even the IP-PBX to a platform where voice traffic is handled completely in software and not on big, dedicated boxes. On the user-experience side, the unified communications supported by that infrastructure means streamlining of business processes, as well as communications that will give users information about their colleagues' whereabouts and how best to contact them.

What are piece parts?

Microsoft loves to build foundations for partners to build on, and OCS is no different. Not only does Microsoft have a number of pieces it is offering -- from such Office applications as Word, Excel and Communicator, to SharePoint and Exchange -- it has partners, such as Nortel, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel Networks, NEC Philips Unified Solutions, Polycom and Siemens Communications.

What do partners and competitors say?

Cisco, as you might guess, thinks telephony is a network-layer issue and that Microsoft will show up only as middleware and client software. Nortel, on the other hand, is betting that telephony is going completely to software, and is eyeing a short-term future of integrated infrastructure and a long-term play for adding vertical applications and scalability enhancements on top of the Microsoft platform.

What are the challenges Microsoft faces?

Experts say time, reputation and cross-platform support are the big three. How fast can Microsoft release all the pieces needed to implement a unified communications infrastructure, and will it happen before users make strategic choices on Cisco, Nortel, Avaya and others? Microsoft also will be fighting its reputation for less-than reliable software, and the big question on customers' minds will be, "Do I want to turn my telephony infrastructure over to Microsoft?"

In addition, large organizations with heterogeneous environments will be asking for support of a similar user experience across Linux, Apple and device platforms.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Cooney

Network World
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?