July 31, 2007

Microsoft’s office Communications Server takes the next step forward

I know I’m a bit late, I’ve been well beaten by Arthur,  Johann, James and Eileen but I’ve had the cricket to think about and recover from and despair about  but anyway….  

It’s out – well sort of, both Office Communications Server 2007 and it’s Uber client office communicator 2007 have been released to manufacturing ( RTM). expect full MSDN versions over the next few weeks and full availability by the autumn.

the release includes :

  • Office Communicator 2007 : the soon to be ubiquitous client
  • Office Communications Server 2007 : the core server product  
  • Office Live Meeting Console 2007 :  The web collaboration and presentation tool
  • Communicator Web Access 2007 : think of this as OWA is to outlook CWA is to Office communicator 2007
  • Microsoft RoundTable 2007 : Microsoft’s innovative 360° video and audio conferencing tool
  • Office Communications Server 2007 Speech Server : Microsoft’s IVR server suite

there have also been some disclosures about likely pricing  as well over on the Microsoft Presspass site Gurdeep Singh Pall VP of the UC groups is quoted :

As with Live Communications Server, the predecessor to Office Communications Server, customers need both server and client access licenses (CALs). There are two types of Office Communications Server CALs: Standard and Enterprise. The Standard CAL has the IM and presence capabilities including new group IM and rich presence features and costs roughly $21 for the average enterprise. The new Enterprise CAL provides all of the new conferencing and VoIP call management features and costs roughly $97 for the average enterprise. The Office Communications Server Standard and Enterprise CALs will also be included as part of the Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite, a bundle of several Microsoft server CALs available at a discount.

the approach is very much one of evolution rather than revolution and that the average enterprise needn’t replace that aging TDM PBX to realise the advantages that  Unified Communications can bring. I’ve still to digest the interop white paper so I can’t really comment in too much detail on the practicalities of this.

This is the phoney war before the battle that will rage between traditional telecoms providers, the IP vendors (notably Cisco) and Microsoft. things are going to get really interesting over the next few months.

This is the biggy… Communication is so much more emotional and important than the choice of browser you make. There’s a whole lot more money to be made and lost ($45 Bn by 2010)  and it’s Microsoft Pitching into a Market that it’s relatively new to with a lot of established vendors who have their share of the billions to protect. 

I’m hoping that the customer is in a win-win situation however I am a bit wary that this period of upheaval is going to lead to a bit of blood letting and I hope  the collateral damage is kept to a minimum.


Orange Unique and Blackberry

July 11, 2007

Orange to launch the BlackBerry 8820 – UMA and email in a single device


Orange have announced that they will be launching the  BlackBerry 8820 will be at the end of July which   will replace the BlackBerry 8800 in Orange’s portfolio.

The 8820 is a revamped 8800 that offers all the  functionality of the 8800  and combines it with UMA  (The ability to use WiFi VoIP and Cellular in the same device). The 8820 therefor supports Orange’s  Unique offering where home workers can roam onto Orange’s Unique VoIP service via the Internet through their Orange Broadband connection when in their home location.

email on the go and UMA is a great feature, HP have combined the options in the iPAQ 514 Voice Communicator (still waiting HP!!) on the Windows Mobile 6 Platform so it’s good to see RIM following suite for those Blackberry users out there

Interestingly Orange Caveat the Unique service as follows  

Please note that the Unique/Homeworker proposition offers users the ability to continue to make voice calls when in the home, irrespective of GSM coverage, using WiFi/Orange Broadband. It may however be subject to busy periods as with all broadband connections. Customers are therefore advised to trial the solution before committing to large rollouts.

Which hints that they might be having capacity problems, I don’t use the service myself but would be interested in any Orange customer experiences of problems in this service.

I think the jury is still out on the whether UMA or Pico Cells will be the best technology to provide local roaming so any user experiences are of great interest to me.

remember Rabbit anyone ?

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open Source VoIP and Microsoft Unified Messaging

July 10, 2007

How to get Asterisk working with Exchange 2007

I’d alluded before about my dabbling with Asterisk as an open source SIP PBX and how I hadn’t mustered the energy to try and get Exchange 2007 which uses SIP over TCP to talk to Asterisk which uses SIP over UDP. at the time I was considering a patch,  well with one thing and another I still haven’t got round to it but I do get a emails  asking about it and I recently was directed to a very useful post by Ryan an antipodean IT pro who’s reluctantly dipping his data toe in the voice water. I came across Ryan’s post through Dennis over at MSGoodies.

The key is to use sipX which happily eventually acts as an intermediary with SIP over both UDP and TCP in it’s lexicon.  Ryan gives an excellent account of setting the whole infrastructure up within VMware so you can familiarise yourself with some of those novel VoIP protocols

maybe, just maybe, I’ll get round to trying it soon

Microsoft Announce Unified Communications endpoints

May 14, 2007

9 vendors unite with the giant to produce UC hardphones

This via the Unified Communications Team Blog

Yesterday Microsoft announced a pretty ( and some not so pretty ) mixed bag of handsets designed to compliment Office Communications Server 2007 – available as part of the beta program the endpoints are either standalone IP endpoints with Communicator built in  (my preference) or as USB handsets that are driven by Office Communicator on the desktop.

These are the first handsets to use the new unified comm’s interface


which closely mimics Office Communicator 2007 there’s a great video over on Channel 10 which at 6:19 in shows you the Polycom x700 in operation, including the touch screen in action, a bit salesy but worth the watch.

You’re about to think you’re seeing double, here’s the Polycom version of the IP endpoint in all it’s glory:


and here’s the LG / Nortel



and here’s the USB equivalents:

(the right order this time )

polycom :


and LG Nortel:


Polycom do extend the range with a wirefree device the CX400, shame it’s USB though and desktop , I’d much prefer a true WiFi device. cx400

the CX400 screen displays communicator information so it’s a cut above the normal USB handset but as I’ve said I’d much prefer a true WiFi device.

there are more devices on show at the UC image gallery.

to my mind the USB devices are just pretty much more of the same, Communicator interaction is a great enhancement but the addition of Communicator Client to a IP Hardpoint in the The LG-Nortel IP Phone 8540 and the Polycom CX700 really wins for me.

Like most people I’d rather not have to turn my PC on to communicate, call me an old stick in the mud but I’m a two device man in this environment.

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The official response to Response Point

April 20, 2007

what the Unified Communications team really think ( well officially anyway)

I’ve  blogged ad nauseam about my disappointment with Response Point’s route to Market and the missed opportunity I think it represents ( Premature maybe I know as it’s not even this side of the Atlantic yet) and mused about what the UC teams’s position may be on the whole thing.

Eric Swift Senior Director of the Unified Communications group has made this statement. to summarise the position is that the two products are targeted at different customers:

  • RP to small businesses that want to simplify the voice experience by replacing their existing telephone system or installing a new one based on Microsoft Software – a fairly narrow church I would think
  • OCS is designed to enhance the communications capabilities for larger organizations by working with the telephony and networking infrastructure they have, while using the power of software to provide next-generation communications capabilities to users.

as I’ve made clear the lack of LCS / OCS integration absolutely bamboozles me so I’d hope the statement would shed some light on the roadmap that might lead to integration of RP within the UC portfolio. Unfortunately it doesn’t. the closest we have to a comment comes via Oliver Rist over at Infoworld who has attributed  to Jeff Smith the suggestion that :

Response Point wasn’t going to integrate with Small Business Server 2007 when/if that platform shows up post-Longhorn — even though the Exchange 2007 folks are making a big deal about Exchange’s capability to act as voicemail and call aggregator. Apparently, that’s a Response Point 2.0 goal

Eric Swifts statement does nothing to reduce the confusion:

What about the roadmap for the two products?  Will they come together?  The next steps will be based on the evolution of this dynamic market and the feedback we get from customers.  The teams are working closely together so that both the small and large business customers gain the benefits of software-powered VoIP regardless of the offering built for them.


Apparently it’s up to us……. you know my position MICROSOFT RESPONSE POINT MUST INTEGRATE WITH OCS ! ( or LCS or a similar component in the Longhorn SBS variant) and provide unified comm’s on a Microsoft platform to the smaller business.


Come on people – get with the program


BT Introduce BT Business Anywhere

April 17, 2007

BT Fusion 0.5 ? –  great idea but perhaps a little confusing for the average bear?

this via Jason Langridge’s Blog and despite his reassurances I’m yet to be convinced as to how uncomplicated this service would be in realworld usage

what is it?

from the BT  Broadband Office website:

BT’s Office Anywhere brings you a big advance in multifunctional technology. With a BT Office Anywhere handset you can work as effectively when you’re out and about as you can at your desk.

  • Office Anywhere brings you advanced phone and data services using a single device. You have real-time access to email, calendar, contacts and documents
  • The handsets emulate a Windows PC experience, including web surfing with Internet Explorer and instant messaging
  • A single cost-effective subscription gives you inclusive mobile minutes, inclusive data allowance, and you can make unlimited hour-long VoIP calls to UK landlines from office, private or public WiFi hotspots at no extra charge
  • a high-specification multifunctional handset with preloaded Microsoft software

in English that’s an HTC S620 Smartphone running Windows Mobile 5.0 with push email (hosted by BT or your own Exchange 2003 SP2) and an integrated VoIP dialer to make calls when in range of a Hotspot


the blurb implies that the dialer logs on to BT Openzone Hotspots automatically which is great but you’ll need to manually log on to another providers service either pay as you go or if you have an Openzone account (an extra) at a roaming partner (say T-Mobile or the cloud ). Openzone accounts are an additional £5 for 500 minutes or £25 for 4000 minutes.

the unlimited VoIP calls are  a less rigorous version of our old favourite unlimited* in that you can only average 4 hours a day over a month to any one number or get hit with an additional ppm charge ( unlikely any but a very few users will  get affected by this I would have thought)

I’d like to see how handoff works between hotspots (if at all) and I am sure there’s no handoff from WiFi to Cellular which is a feature of UMA services

It’s a good hybrid but it needs to be really easy to use, ideally the device needs to do the thinking for the user, I don’t mean any disrespect to the users however all they will want to do is make a phone call with as little fuss as possible.


as I commented on Jason’s original post :

in my experience you’ll find geeks using it (but we can do something similar with existing tools); technoambivalents not bothering with that process and just staying cellular and technophobes running screaming from the handset.

all that said It would be a very good solution for lazy mobile users in the office as you could install a BTO hotspot and allow VoIP calls that way.

I’m disappointed with the tariff structure,  ideally I’d want an unlimited data tariff (for emails) to go along with bundled minutes and free VoIP, I think having options for the amount of data you need to use as follows :

Professional (30MB) Unlimited
BT Office Anywhere with 250
inclusive minutes
£39.50 £47.50 £54.50
BT Office Anywhere with 700
inclusive minutes
£60.50 £68.50 £75.50

confuses things a little  but I can understand why they do this BT have never being innovators in tariffs really as they have to be wary of the regulator.

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more responses to response point

March 23, 2007

Have Microsoft really grasped the telephony nettle?

Bloody hell I was looking forward to this, despite assurances from people on the inside of unified comm’s in Microsoft that they never planned a phone system,  since their acquisition of Media streams for their ePhone and Teleo I knew it was just a matter of time.

Now I’ve sat through the somewhat embarrassing response point Webcast with XD (Xuedong Huang)  and friends and frankly I’m underwhelmed.

There seems to be huge excitement in the Microsoft world about many features I’ve come to expect  in the telephony world since time immemorial,  but  they’re newbies so I’ll let them get excited.

Sorry to be dismissive but Response Point is simply a voice activated PBX with familiar proprietary hardpoint terminals

Yes voice activation is very geek chic but frankly if people don’t use the features it’s not really that they find them awkward to access it’s really that they don’t recognise their value and can’t be bothered to access them.  Making features voice accessible doesn’t help you need to tell the users that the features are there.  Avaya’s  INDeX  ( god rest it’s soul ) led the way with a context sensitive display that prompted users with appropriate features.  The system copes with accents but I wonder how well it would cope in an open plan office?

Yes it’s got an easy to use GUI based management suite ( they all have) yes it integrates with outlook (ditto) yes it’s got auto discovery feature for phones (tick), it screen pops (err?), there’s an auto attendant (wow), voicemail to email (I’ll stop now).   There’s really nothing to commend it over  current small office offerings by Mitel and Avaya, they must have been quaking in their boots but I guess you’ll have heard the biggest sigh of relief if you were hanging around Avaya central.


up to 100 endpoints without sneezing and without the FD coughing (I’d hope, but remember those proprietary handsets)  

voice activation … has massive geek and tech company appeal 

two click backup and restore, a nice touch but the fact it’s listed will lead to questions about stability

it’s just Microsoft


No OCS or Exchange integration – WHAT!!!! you are kidding right?  unfortunately not…. this is a major own goal… response point should absolutely be a branch solution for OCS ….. maybe antitrust paranoia?

Official line it’s for a different market sector … blah blah blah …….. we’ve spent years thinking about advanced applications for voice solutions  and now the application company hits the market with an application compromised telephone system. Every other PABX vendor pushes the big company features for a small company message why aren’t Microsoft?

NO software only version – seriously.. why do you need  hardware and response point optimised phones, surely you can write the ease of integration into SIP software clients?

IMHO it’s about time Microsoft stopped being all coy with hardware vendors they don’t need their help (Ok maybe they do to get buy in from customers initially), get the product out there and let people provide specialised appliances based on it if need be. The Asterisk model should have been a clue.

It’s tied to hardware vendors, (see above)  and the US ones are the wrong ones for a global product.  I’ve never seen anyone buy a dlink or quanta PBX in EMEA, I’ve seen Uniden in the distant past but I’m hoping a Panasonic, Toshiba or Samsung emerges for the EMEA market?

no points:

Seen it all before actually,  thanks for coming peeps…. a bit shocked that Bill deigned to lower himself to promote this.

Where’s the homeworking and flexible working capability? imagine this, OCS or LCS SBS and exchange 2007 for the small business, maybe even mobile twinning that would be a really powerful tool for a smaller enterprise.

It must at least be able to act as a Microsoft gateway for unified comm’s,  please say it will.


Response Point has missed the point, as an adjunct to OCS it could rip the telephony world apart as a standalone, it’s just another telephone system but with a huge amount  of catching up to do.