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Will Microsoft Unified Communications kick enterprise VoIP, IM into high gear?

 On our sister site TechRepublic, Jason Hiner offers his view that the just-released Microsoft Unified Communications Server may convince heretofore skittish enterprise users to embrace VoIP and instant messaging.The reason, Jason strongly implies, is that these features and so much more are now included in a solution deemed worthy of trust.

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On our sister site TechRepublic, Jason Hiner offers his view that the just-released Microsoft Unified Communications Server may convince heretofore skittish enterprise users to embrace VoIP and instant messaging.

The reason, Jason strongly implies, is that these features and so much more are now included in a solution deemed worthy of trust.

As to VoIP, Jason writes:

Thousands of companies have been engaged in VoIP deployments over the past three years. One of the original motivators was cost savings, but there was also the promise of improved efficiency and collaboration. Unified communications is what can unlock the potential of VoIP’s efficiency and collaboration improvements. For the companies that have recently finished or will soon finish a big VoIP deployment, layering on a unified communications deployment could be an easy sell, especially for the many companies that already have Windows Server 2003, Exchange, and Microsoft Office in place.

Next, Jason applies some of the same thinking to Instant Messaging-a concept that some enterprise users are still skittish about:

IM continues to be one of the biggest pain points for IT in 2007. While IM has become widely used by business workers, only a small handful of companies actually have an IT-sponsored IM client. The rest of the workers are using consumer services such as Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and Skype. Using public IM clients obviously has major ramifications for privacy and security.

If IT can find an easy-to-use alternative IM client that gives users standard IM functionality and still lets them connect to contacts on many of the outside services (Communicator 2007 can connect to AOL, MSN, and Yahoo) then I think many of them will jump at the chance, because the stakes are getting higher all the time, especially with compliance audits putting additional pressure on IT. Microsoft’s UC platform could help make the pain go away.

I mostly agree with Jason, but I wonder how many enterprises that will be targeted via Microsoft's often persusasive sales offices already have VoIP? And will these sales types be able to break down long-held institutional fears about deploying IM in the enterprise?