Microsoft is headed down a new path with a raft of software designed to unify the corporate communications experience.
In San Francisco, the company will say it can "transform business communications" by integrating the phone with Microsoft products, according to a statement from the software giant.
Such unification will be the next advance in how individuals, groups and organizations work in what Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's Business Division, in a statement called "today's 24x7, always-connected and increasingly mobile work environment."
As part of the launch of new products, Microsoft will unveil a 360-degree videoconference camera, as well as software for IP phones and USB headsets. HP, Motorola and Siemens have been named as partners in the new communications thrust.
"Basically, this is same old, same old, but bundled," said Joe Wilcox, analyst with JupiterResearch. Microsoft Exchange server was the software goliath's unified communications product.
Wilcox isn't sure Cisco and other VoIP players are shaking in their boots over Microsoft's entrance in the area. "This is not an area Microsoft has experience," Wilcox said.
The new services include both software and services.
Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 will enable VoIP calls, videoconferencing and IM traffic across existing applications and services.
Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 will unify e-mail, voicemail and faxing along with a speech-based attendant allowing users to access their communications from any device.
Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 client software works with Office Communications Server to provide a VoIP softphone that connects to the MSN, AOL and Yahoo IM services. Communicator will also power IP desktop phones from Polycom, LG-Nortel and Thomson Telecom.
Microsoft Office Live Meeting will include VoIP capabilities, increased video and audio features and better integration with Microsoft Office.
But the unified communications push isn't all software. Microsoft also announced its Office Communications Server will combine with a 360-degree camera for Microsoft Office Roundtable.
Described as an "immersive conferencing experience," participants in conferences gain a panoramic view of those attending the conference, along with close-up views of speakers.
Makers of peripheral devices, including USB handsets, wireless USB headsets, webcams and PC monitors from Logitech, Motorola, Plantronics, Samsung, GN Netcom and Tatung will also work with Communicator 2007 software.
HP, Motorola and Siemens were also named as partner in the new effort.
HP will provide hardware devices and systems integration. Motorola will produce mobile devices based on Office Communicator Server 2007 and Office Communicator Mobile.
Siemens will work to connect telephony, e-mail and IM into a single communications platform.
In February, Microsoft unveiled its Office Communicator Mobile voice, video and telephony software at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona. The software was a key part of Microsoft's unified communications vision.