Like a Don Quixote, Microsoft's voice services are championing Microsoft's unified communications strategy. Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 (OCS) was released to private beta this week. OCS will be the successor to Microsoft Live Communications Server (LCS). A bit of LCS history will put OCS in perspective.
LCS was first delivered (in 2003) at the cusp of the enterprise instant messaging (EIM) heyday. (You may remember those days from corporate directives like "Thou shall not use consumer IM, e.g., AIM, MSN Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger, for business purposes.) Here's the boring technical part: LCS uses Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) -- the protocol for telephony -- and the SIP extension Session Initiation Protocol for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE) for instant messaging and presence-awareness (often known as "availability" in instant messaging systems). The bottom line is that Microsoft's adoption of SIP/SIMPLE in LCS gives next-generation OCS a loud voice in Microsoft's unified communications platform of products.
For example, Exchange 2007's unified messaging voice services connect with OCS to PBX or VoIP providers, eager to align with the power that is Microsoft. (Microsoft announced that their partner relationships include Nortel Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., LG-Nortel Co. Ltd., Mitel Networks Corp., NEC Philips Unified Solutions, Polycom Inc. and Siemens Communications Inc.)
Source: Microsoft (November 2006)
... and as Ina Fried points out in Microsoft trying to find its voice
The [OCS] software will also tie into Microsoft's Office products, so workers will be able to click on a name in Outlook or Word, see if that person is available and then dial them for a call. In addition to the server software, Microsoft is also readying new desktop Office Communicator software that can handle telephony tasks along with corporate instant messaging.
Of course, the voice integration alone can lead to mushrooming upgrades across the Microsoft unified communications platform, along with new licensing costs. Nonetheless, Microsoft is banking that voice services become the "knight in shining armour" that rescues voice-deprived enterprises.