Microsoft to Grab VoIP Market

In a keynote speech last week, Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft Corp.’s Business Division, predicted that in just three years, the average VoIP solution for business will cost half what it does today, as VoIP systems move from hardware to software. Raikes also predicted that in the same time frame, 100 million people — twice the number of current business VoIP users — will have the ability to make phone calls from Microsoft Office applications.

Comms Business was given an exclusive preview of Raikes’ announcements by Mark Deakin, Unified Communications Group product manager for the United Kingdom. Adding colour to Raikes statement that ‘Software is set to transform business phone systems as profoundly as it has transformed virtually every other form of workplace communication’ Deakin said “We know we can now deliver an IP telephony system on a CD which means we have moved from old world hardware economics of PABX’s to the new world of software economics for IP communications, which means that – like in the IT world – users will have almost unlimited choice of the hardware on which the software runs. In other words, as with PC’s which can now be bought for less than the price of a top-end proprietary IP phone, the user will be able to buy and use the communications device which suits them best, at the price point which suits their budget best.”

He went on to cite a voice quality performance evaluation performed by Psytechnics where a comparison had been made between the voice quality of a pre-release of Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 together with the Office Communicator 2007 desktop client, against the quality of an IP telephone running on a call management system from an ‘IP telephony market leader’. Psytechnics reported that the Microsoft solution had superior voice quality.

Having said that there is, perhaps, an overlooked advantage of the software world of Unified Communications ‘the Microsoft way’. As Mark Deakin pointed out, the exclusive interview given to Comms Business was set up first by a mobile phone call, then by an e-mail confirmation. The actual interview was done in a landline telephone call and has subsequently been backed up with more e-mails and the viewing of a web-cast. This involved PC’s, phones and at least 10 different e-mail addresses and telephone numbers. In the future, there will be just one number (or address) for every person, and it won’t matter where they are or what device they are using when to communications happens. And there will be a permanent record of all the communications, just as there is with e-mail. Is this a good thing or a bad thing, we ask?

Microsoft will work with industry partners to deliver new Internet protocol-based phones with Microsoft Office Communicator software built in. Reader can see a gallery of telephony devices from Microsoft at www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/uc/gallery.mspx