Microsoft's Unified Communications Group is all about breaking down the communication silos of e-mail, instant-messaging and voice-mail. That's how UCG officials have explained their charter and technology roadmap, at least.
On December 12, Microsoft announced that it was commencing a private beta of Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007, the next release of its corporate instant-messaging/audio/video/voice conferencing product. As part of the beta, Microsoft made the OCS 2007 test bits available to 2,500 IT professionals. Testers will be able to work with the new VOIP support that Microsoft is building into OCS 2007, which will enable users to launch VOIP calls from directly within their Office 2007 desktop apps. By doing so, users will be able to access another user's "presence" status and let that person know, via a subject line, the purpose of a VOIP call.
I'm not going to rant (at least not today) about whether the ever-present sharing of presence data is a boon or a drag on productivity -- a topic about which I've opined repeatedly while wearing my "too much collaboration is a bad thing" hat.
But it is interesting to note that not all presence and contact data at Microsoft is created equal. The contact list created by Microsoft Communicator/OCS users is different from the ones being created and shared by Windows Live users across the various Live Mail, Live Messaging, Live Expo and Live Spaces properties. Microsoft advises customers who want to share contacts across Office Communicator/OCS and Windows Live to rely on federation to share that data.
And Microsoft's strategy, announced this summer, to embed Windows Live directly into devices, like phones? No connection whatsoever with what Microsoft's UCG team is doing with communications vendors around VOIP.
Microsoft is a big company with lots of product and technology silos of its own. But shouldn't VOIP teams within the same company be communicating among themselves?
Speaking of silos and communication, Microsoft has finally gone public with the fate of its "Casino" product -- the Windows Live Search product that also was known at one time as Live Search Center. Instead of releasing Casino as a "Live"-branded product, Microsoft has decided to fold the Casino team into the Windows team and meld the Casino work with some of the other desktop search efforts inside the Windows group (including the Microsoft Research search project that was code-named "Tesla").
I agree with Windows Live Most Valuable Professional Brandon LeBlanc: Making Casino (now known as Windows Search 4) part of Windows instead of releasing it as another redundant Windows Live search offering is a good move.
I wonder if we'll see Microsoft "move" other Live services that are currently in development into the Windows and/or other Microsoft product teams.