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Microsoft brings IM into the corporate fold

Microsoft has launched Office Communicator 2005, formerly known as Istanbul, along with a service pack for its Live Communications Server and a new version of Live Meeting
Written by Charles McLellan, Senior Editor on

Microsoft has announced its long awaited corporate instant messaging (IM) client — formerly codenamed 'Istanbul'.

Now dubbed Microsoft Office Communicator 2005, it becomes the official client for the company's upgraded Live Communications Server (LCS) 2005, which gets a service pack following its debut last year.

Completing the trio of yesterday's product announcements from Bill Gates at the Real-Time Collaboration Web Conference in San Francisco, Live Meeting — purchased from PlaceWare back in 2003 — gets an upgrade to the 2005 version.

Office Communicator 2005, which will be available within 90 days, goes well beyond public IM clients such as AOL, Yahoo and MSN — which are now widely used in companies, and are supported in LCS 2005 SP1.

By integrating with Outlook 2003, LCS 2005 SP1 and Live Meeting 2005, Microsoft's new client will be able to provide 'rich presence' functionality that allows users to switch easily between instant messaging, email, voice, video, Web-based workspaces and Web conferences. Service Pack 1 for LCS 2005 — which also includes enhanced federation between different communications servers in the enterprise and anti-'spim' filters — will be available within 30 days.

Live Meeting 2005, which ships on 11 March, will allow users to launch Web conferences from within Office applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as Office Communicator 2005. Microsoft claims that the new Live Meeting will offer an 'office-grade' user experience, for example by rendering PowerPoint presentations locally rather than at the meeting host's end.

Prices for the new products were not disclosed at the launch. However, at a reviewers' briefing in London, Gurdeep Singh Pall, Vice-president, Live Communications Server, said that the Public IM Connectivity (PIC) component would be licensed separately at a cost of around $13 (£6.70) to $15 per user per year.

Singh Pall also noted that Pocket PC and Smartphone versions of the Office Communicator 2005 client would be available later this year, but could not confirm whether these would be ready in time for the upcoming launch of Windows Mobile 2005.

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