Microsoft to unveil new IM, video conferencing tools

Microsoft will unveil new video conferencing and instant messaging tools on March 8.

Microsoft is set to unveil new Real Time Collaboration (RTC) plans and technologies, including tools for instant messaging and video conferencing, at a press event on March 8.

Company Chairman Bill Gates will attend a live event in San Francisco, along with Anoop Gupta, Microsoft's vice president of RTC, according to a Microsoft representative.

The executives will lay out their strategy for the division and show off new technologies, the representative said. Simultaneous launches will take place in London and other cities, with Gates and Gupta broadcast over a live link, possibly demonstrating Microsoft's new video conferencing tool, the representative suggested.

The Redmond, Washington, company will also highlight new customers and partners at the event. The chief executive officer of BT Group's global services division Andy Green is scheduled to attend the London launch.

The Real Time Collaboration division is home to Microsoft software used for instantly connecting users, providing capabilities such as instant messaging, video conferencing, phone calls and data exchange.

Gates previewed some upcoming RTC technologies last October, including the company's new front-end application for Live Communications Server (LCS) 2005, code-named Istanbul. Providing instant messaging, voice, video and telephony features, Istanbul will be the preferred client for LCS 2005, Gates said. At the time, the company expected to ship the client before the end of June.

LCS 2005, the company's enterprise instant messaging and presence software, was released late last year.

RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady could not confirm that Istanbul will be launched on March 8, but said he sees Microsoft getting it out the door for early adopters so it can get a footprint in the market. The client's telephony features will be particularly important in helping Microsoft compete against VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) competitors, like Skype Technologies.

Istanbul allows users to link their enterprise phone systems with LCS 2005 to make phone calls from their desktops. While phone, IM and video capabilities are offered by various players, Microsoft's play is putting them all in one place, O'Grady said.

Next month's RTC launches come during Microsoft's Convergence 2005 event in San Diego, taking place from March 6 to March 9, where the company will emphasize the advantages of integrated technologies.