Microsoft Launches Upgrade of Key UC Platform

Microsoft this week officially launched Office Communications Server 2007 Release 2 (OCS 2007-R2), an update to its immensely popular unified communications platform.

The new platform, which delivers enriched audio and video conferencing, powerful new developer tools, and enhanced voice capabilities, had been in private beta testing since Microsoft first debuted it at the VoiceCon trade show in Amsterdam in October. It officially was launched for worldwide distribution February 3.

OCS 2007-R2 delivers important new functionality that brings together instant messaging; audio, video, and Web conferencing; email; and enterprise voice onto a single, robust, and flexible software platform that enables contextual communication across the applications, networks, and devices that businesses already know and use.

OCS 2007-R2, which is based on software-powered Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, includes all the components of OCS 2007, offers deeper integration with Microsoft Office, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Office SharePoint Server, and adds several new features and enhancements to streamline communications, increase flexibility, and incorporate communications into business processes. They are:

  • OCS Attendant Console, a new client application optimized for receptionists, team secretaries, and others to manage incoming calls and conferences on behalf of their teams through a software-based interface that uses presence technology to indicate individual availability and best means of contact.
  • Microsoft Office Mobile Communicator extended functionality that allows users to communicate using presence, instant message, and voice as an extension of their private branch exchange (PBX) from a unified client over the Nokia S40, Motorola RAZR, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile platforms.
  • Single Number Reach, which forwards calls to a user’s cell phone and treats calls initiated on a cell phone as business calls, allowing the enterprise to integrate voicemail messages and consolidate call records for compliance and billing purposes.
  • Desktop Sharing, which allows users to share their desktop to collaborate with external users on PC, Mac, and Linux platforms through a Web interface.
  • Persistent Group Chat, which enables geographically dispersed teams to participate in topic-based discussions that persist over time. This application provides users with a list of all available chat rooms and topics, periodically archives discussions in an XML file format, provides tools to search the entire history of discussion on a given topic, and offers filters and alerts to notify someone of new posts or topics on a particular topic.
  • Response Group, a workflow design application that defines how incoming calls are routed based on interactive voice response and user-configured rules.
  • Dial-in Conferencing through an on-premises bridge that allows organizations to host their own conference calls.
  • Session Internet Protocol (SIP) trunking for setting up a direct VoIP connection between an IP telephony service provider and Office Communicator 2007 without an on-premises gateway.
  • Call Monitoring, which maintains call logs and tracks phone data for easier billing processes, business analysis, and troubleshooting.

OCS 2007-R2 also provides developers with tools to build business solutions that join structured activities and information with presence and communication tools, enabling users to communicate within the applications with which they are most familiar.

Users seeking advanced functionality can complement OCS 2007-R2 with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, a cornerstone of Microsoft’s unified communications portfolio that offers built-in auto attendant for answering and routing inbound voice calls as well as unified messaging that brings voicemail and email together in a single inbox.

Microsoft says its OCS 2007-R2 application programming interfaces allow clients to add click-to-communicate capabilities to any software they use every day. “With a single click, the user can email, instant message, call, or share applications,” company officials said in a press release.

OCS 2007-R2 “highlights the pace of innovation that is possible with software,” Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft’s business division, said in a statement. “This new release puts Microsoft on a rapid path to deliver voice software that does much more than a network PBX and with much less cost.”

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