Microsoft: Keep converged nets open for new apps

Businesses should consider how well their VOIP infrastructure will interoperate with upcoming communications applications when they revamp their voice networks, says Gurdeep Singh Pall, Microsoft vice president of real time collaboration during his keynote address at Interop New York on Tuesday.

Microsoft is prepping applications that better integrate with communications channels - voice, instant messaging, e-mail, videoconferencing - that it says will improve efficiency and productivity among workers, says Pall. "It's not just about carrying voice over an IP network," he says.

Customers should think in terms of how presence information on a converged voice/data network can improve communications among workers. Microsoft is already starting to support this idea with its Office Communicator and Live Communication server, but Pall tried to flesh it out with specific examples of features that will become available.

For instance, with Microsoft Word integrated with the IP communications networks, when a person reading an edited document ran the cursor over a suggested change, the application would show who made the suggestion, Pall says. It would also show if that person was available on the network and if so by what means - voice, e-mail, instant messaging or videoconferencing.

Clicking on the person's name would call them by whatever means they are available. And when the person is summoned, it would automatically call up the same document on that person's computer screen so the two parties could discuss it, Pall says.

Similarly, an e-mail conversation could be switched to an instant messaging session if the subject matter became urgent, he says. The switch to IM would happen by clicking on a button within Microsoft Outlook, and would include the thread that had already been started via e-mail. It would also be identified by the same subject line as the e-mail, according to Singh.

Multi-party video capabilities will be built into Office Communicator, which will show presence of people within an organization and make it possible to call conferences on the fly with people who are available, he says. This will include people who are available only by handhelds or smart phones, he says.

As businesses create their VOIP networks, they want to make sure they support integration with applications so they can work collaboratively from within them. Otherwise, the new VOIP networks may wind up as isolated from applications as traditional TDM PBX networks were, according to Pall. "We don't want to create another information system that is siloed off to the side," he says.

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