Microsoft to buy enterprise chat provider Parlano

Microsoft plans to acquire Parlano, a privately held maker of enterprise group chat software, to bolster its unified communications strategy.

Microsoft said Wednesday it will acquire a Chicago-based provider of enterprise group chat software to bolster the messaging capabilities of its Office Communications Server and Office Communicator products.

Microsoft's plan to acquire privately held Parlano is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year. The company did not disclose the financial terms of the deal. Parlano has about 50 employees, which Microsoft eventually plans to relocate to its headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

Parlano offers MindAlign, a group chat application that enables groups of people in an enterprise to maintain a discussion over instant-messaging that persists over time, said Microsoft Unified Communications spokesman Clint Patterson.

For example, the application is used by large financial services companies such as Deutsche Bank and UBS so employees in major cities around the world such as Paris, London, Tokyo and New York can keep track of chat discussions on specific topics that may have occurred even when they were not in the office.

"Traders around the world can maintain a discussion over a security or a fund ... and when folks in New York come in to work they can see what happened overnight," he said. In addition to counting top financial services firms as customers, Parlano's software is also popular with call centers and companies in the technology industry, according to Microsoft.

Parlano had already built MindAlign to run on Office Communications Server 2007, which was released earlier this year. Currently, users of the software can access Web presence information from Communications Server to see which members of discussion groups are available to chat, Patterson said. This integration should make it easier for Microsoft to build MindAlign's functionality directly into Office Communications Server and its client-side counterpart, Office Communicator, which the company plans to do.

MindAlign also runs on Office Live Communications Server 2005, the previous version of Office Communications Server 2007. Microsoft dropped the "Live" part of the name last year and recast the software as a hub through which enterprises can run various forms of communications, including VOIP, enterprise instant-messaging, interactive voice response systems and video conferencing. The company's recent investment to make unified communications a priority has it butting heads with more established players in networking and communications, such as Avaya and Cisco Systems.

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