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If it makes so much sense to embed voice into productivity apps, why is it taking so long for Microsoft to offer a compelling VoIP product? Tuesday’s announcement of a private beta plan for some selected enterprise shops — not starting until after the 2007 baseball […]

If it makes so much sense to embed voice into productivity apps, why is it taking so long for Microsoft to offer a compelling VoIP product? Tuesday’s announcement of a private beta plan for some selected enterprise shops — not starting until after the 2007 baseball season will already be underway at best — is an underwhelming statement of progress.

It’s not like they don’t know about VoIP in Redmond. In fact, it’s just possible that the chat feature on Xbox Live accounts for more VoIP minutes than many standalone providers. But now more than a year after its purchase of Teleo, we still are looking for the first real, concerted VoIP effort from Microsoft — and Tuesday’s announcement of a limited beta test of Office Communications Server 2007 ain’t it.

(By the way, we are also still looking for the cordless USB-connected VoIP phones and the click-to-call features in Live Search that Microsoft announced last March. Anyone who’s seen these things, please let us know!)

In November, everyone got excited when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer apparently made VoIP a priority… while talking in Tokyo. Since then, what have we heard about VoIP from Microsoft? Not much.

I have always thought that Microsoft would soft-pedal VoIP as long as it was still trying to sell its TV-hosting software to big phone companies. Maybe that makes sense — no need to compete against free (Skype) or your partners (the telcos) in a space (communcations) that historically, you haven’t been good at.

But then — as voice becomes just another application on the network, who better to build it than the application king? It’s a question I’ve been asking for some time now. I just always thought the “when” would have been by now, already.

  1. Absolutely agree. Did anyone ever buy the Live Communications Server 2005? Or the Communicator softphone? And what’s with Live Meeting?

    PC World has a hilarious comment on their Vista review concerning Live Meeting. Basically, it does nothing – no chat, no voice. “Don’t invite me to that meeting!”

    MS has been making public announcements for two years now. And this is a beta.

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  2. One of the realizations that the Microsoft UC team has come across is how difficult to do voice consistently and reliably. It is one thing to deliver voice as a “best endeavors” in the MSN messenger, it is some quite different to deliver an experience that paying customers want. From what I have heard in early trials they have come to understand the concept of “there are some networks that are ready for voice, there are most that are not” (as Cisco knows too well). For the Microsoft UC group this is going to be a very tough next 5 years.

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  3. Greg, good point. How do you think Microsoft stacks up with Cisco’s position and progress in the UC market?

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  4. There is Nortel Networks alliance with Microsoft, to facilitate Nortel’s ongoing transition of a key component of Nortel’s business from traditional voice technology into software, that was announced earlier this year. Nortel and MS developers must be developing services and applications for the enterprise business. Nortel is expecting significant revenue from this alliance in 2008.

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  5. Is Microsoft Really Joining the Unified Communications Business?…

    My friend Paul Kapustka wrote this over on GigaOm:Microsoft’s long, slow, road to VoIPIf it makes so much sense to embed voice into productivity apps, why is it taking so long for Microsoft to offer a compelling VoIP product? Tuesday’s announcement …

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  6. Cisco’s advantage is they are going to test and tell you how to rebuild your network to support voice and then sell you the gear to do it.

    Oh, and then they’ll sell you the voice stuff on top of it.

    And then collect on maintainence contracts going forward.

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  7. [...] that will allow users to replace their existing phone systems with Microsoft’s software. It’s about time Redmond pushed its VoIP offering further. The product, which goes on sale in February 2009, replaces a PBX system with Microsoft’s [...]

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