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Where does Microsoft stand on unified communications integration?

Last week’s story about unified communications integration focused a lot on IBM’s Lotus software as an example of a vendor enabling the practice — specifically that Lotus’ open APIs allow enterprises or third-party developers to fold other UC apps into the Lotus interface (or vice versa).

But with just as many (or more) enterprises being loyal Exchange users, it begged the question: Where does Microsoft stand here?

Deadlines being deadlines, unfortunately the software giant’s PR team wasn’t able to get us an interview with a Microsoft executive within our time frame, and the unsigned corporate statement came too close to press time to squeeze in.

Rather than leave everyone in the lurch, I thought I’d share the statement here:

“From an enterprise perspective, interoperability is critical in unified communications, as most customers have a heterogeneous environment and need to make systems work from various vendors of different platforms. Microsoft is committed to supporting interoperability by adopting widely accepted industry standards, such as SIP/SIMPLE, and using concepts like federation consistently across our entire platform. We publish our interfaces and platform APIs to the public enabling third parties to extend the capabilities of our solution.

Microsoft’s advantage is an integrated client experience that supports presence, instant messaging, voice and video, as well as application sharing, collaboration and conferencing. This integrated experience is delivered via products like Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Exchange 2010, etc., but can also through our APIs be integrated in third-party software through the extensible platform APIs of Communications Server. Using automation APIs of Communicator, click-to-communicate is easy to integrate in many applications. This extensible platform has been built with the goal to achieve business productivity at its best for our customers.

From a user perspective, we definitely see a trend of business users attempting to bring together separate pieces of data and applications into a “single pane of glass” for productivity reasons. We see these typically as non-technical business users wanting to concentrate their productivity experience within Office and within SharePoint because that is where they spend the majority of their time, bringing together data from other systems. In other scenarios, the “single pane of glass” concept is often an attempt to redefine the user experience, which may be incongruent and disconnected as a byproduct of multiple vendor clients within the environment.

For individuals who want their communication and collaboration experience to be seamless but do not have the developer skills required, SharePoint provides a set of capabilities related to “do-it-yourself mashups” that we collectively refer to as “SharePoint Composites.” And, if a business user has some technical inclination or is a developer, then they can definitely use power tools or development tools as well to create solutions that incorporate presence, communication, messaging, as well as data from other applications. You can learn more from that here.

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It is useful to hear where Microsoft stand regarding UC in relation to small and medium sized companies. We are fielding many enquiries from clients who have invested in Microsoft server platforms but also want the flexibility to integrate other applications. Different perceptions about cloud computing also add to the confusion. Hopefully we can expect further clarification in the near future. Peter Kerr [A href=""]
It will be interesting to see how much the new communications server 14 product benefits SMEs.