Spring VoN – Part III – Microsoft Cometh?

Spring VoN 2004 is going to go down as the year when Microsoft announced its serious intentions to dominate the VoIP business. Actually it was only a matter of time, before Microsoft launched this assault. They have been trying to figure out ways to leverage their Microsoft Messenger software into yet another monopoly. My article last year in Business 2.0, and the recent Business Week piece was enough to show the utmost seriousness of Microsoft. We will be hearing more from these guys.

By now, I am sure you must have read my report on Microsoft videophones. Today, Microsoft Embedded Devices Division announced VoIP enhancements to the next version of Windows CE.

bq. New VoIP features in Windows CE 5.0 will enable increased productivity for end users via multiparty audio conferencing, Exchange Server integration with contact search and calendar functionality and unified messaging. Scott Horn, director of the Embedded Devices Group at Microsoft said: “As voice and data services continue to merge across networks, enterprises and service operators are deploying innovative IP phone and VoIP devices that will help increase productivity and access to information in the office and at home. The new features in Windows CE 5.0 will support manufacturers with an even more flexible and integrated platform for developing a broad variety of VoIP-enabled client devices.”

I was quite impressed by the vast array of partners Microsoft has signed up for its efforts. The videophones and other handhelds from these partner would make Microsoft a fearsome adversary in the VoIP market. A lot of people think that Microsoft is making a play for the desktop VoIP, but their target is to take a bigger portion of the infrastructure business. They want Windows to be the server platform of choice for soft switches, and other applications such as PBX. It also will extend Exchange into the carrier space. They simply want to replace Sun Microsystems in this space, and Sun, being clueless as it is, was strangely missing a perfect opportunity to get some good VoIP press.

Anyway back to Microsoft, the question is how successful it will be? That remains to be seen – after all this is the very same company which despite its $4 billion a year R&D budget has utterly failed to make its operating systems secure. Still, I would surely be keeping an eye on them.