With the recent Response Point announcement, we’ve received some questions about the relationship between this offering, the upcoming Office Communications 2007 release, and Microsoft’s overall unified communications strategy.
Both Office Communications Server 2007 and Response Point provide voice capabilities over IP and either enhance or replace traditional phone systems. The products share a common foundation of using a software based foundation to bring innovative capabilities and value to voice and telephony applications. The two products, however, address very different customer segments and usage scenarios and therefore are quite different in their implementation and scope.
The different target audiences and usage scenarios and the resulting differences in implementation are as follows:
Microsoft Response Point is a phone system designed specifically for the small business environment. The Response Point software was designed to support a direct replacement for existing small business phone systems with the objective of radically simplifing the phone experience. Its breakthrough voice-enabled user interface makes it easy for users to control all the features of the phone using just their voice, including making a call, transfer, park, access to voicemail and more.
In addition, often small businesses do not have dedicated IT staff on-site, so Microsoft has designed Response Point to allow the average small business PC user to easily manage phone moves, additions or changes with a few quick and easy mouse clicks to save time and money.
Microsoft has partnered with three OEM manufacturers– D-Link, Quanta Computer and Uniden – to design unique hardware base units and desktop phones for the Response Point phone system software.
By contrast, Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 delivers streamlined communications across voice, instant messaging, and web conferencing integrated into the applications used most by businesses (such as Microsoft Office applications). It was designed to enhance the communications capabilities for larger organizations by working with the telephony and networking infrastructure they have, while using the power of software to provide next-generation communications capabilities to users.
What you get with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 + Office Communicator 2007:
o Enterprise grade server and client that offers instant messaging and presence features; Conferencing capabilities, including multiparty audio conferencing using voice over IP; User instigated click-to-call capabilities from within the Communicator 2007 client interface, as well as integrated desktop applications such as Microsoft Office system, allowing users to make and receive phone calls on a preferred device using a personal computer.
o An open platform based on industry standards that integrates with existing IP and PBX systems, whether direct or via gateway to enable PC based calling.
o Integration with a broad eco-system of partners, especially those who share our commitment to standards and interoperability in order to fulfill the promise of integrating all business communications into a seamless and unified experience for customers.
For some time, we have stated that gaining the benefits of unified communications does not require a rip-and-replace of the desktop phone and PBX.
Microsoft’s objective is broader. And our approach to delivering voice plays to our unique strengths in software innovation. We believe simply that people require the right tools to easily communicate, to collaborate, to access the information that empowers informed and timely decisions, and the ability to work efficiently and effectively no matter where they are located.
We feel strongly that the upward trend in companies migrating to PC- and server-based telephony systems points to significant opportunity for our partners as well. By publishing the OCS 2007 interoperability specification last month at VoiceCon (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2007/mar07/03-06VoiceCon07PR.mspx), we hope to spur third party innovation in software application integration and end user devices that will further enhance and exploit the productivity benefits of our unified communications solution.
For small businesses looking to implement their first phone system (or replacing the one they have), we hope they will consider the offerings built on the Response Point software. For larger organizations that look to gain the benefits of unified communications while leveraging their existing telephony and network investments, we believe Office Communications Server is a compelling solution. Both use the power of software to bring exiting new capabilities to the voice market, but do so in different ways.
What about the roadmap for the two products? Will they come together? The next steps will be based on the evolution of this dynamic market and the feedback we get from customers. The teams are working closely together so that both the small and large business customers gain the benefits of software-powered VoIP regardless of the offering built for them.
– Eric Swift
Sr. Director, Unified Communications Group