Microsoft has introduced the latest iteration of its Communications Server unified communications product, releasing details at the VoiceCon 2010 convention in Orlando, Fla. Dubbed Communications Server "14," it appears to synthesize the company's knowledge with imagination to embrace global communications and collaboration. Next up: A look inside the Office Communications Server "14" software.
Microsoft Office Communications Server "14" has been crafted to maximize efficiency and productivity during the 60% of our time we spend away from our desks. Office Communications Server "14" offers holistic enterprise telephony on an interoperable and extensible platform that is tightly integrated with Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office, with the promises that it will painlessly interoperate with other unified communications (UC) vendor offerings, third-party PBXs and so on.
During his VoiceCon Orlando 2010 keynote address, Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Microsoft's communications group, stressed that Microsoft Communications Server "14" is not about replacing the UC apps you have today but about augmenting your installed apps, while providing an extensible platform to build in and on top of.
Microsoft's objective is to provide the same communications capabilities to users whether they're inside or outside their enterprise network; to do so in a vendor-agnostic way; and to provide companies with a straightforward means to seamlessly integrate new communication trends and technologies as well as delivery methodologies, including on-premise and cloud-based solutions.
I know what you're thinking: Nothing I've mentioned is really new. You're right. There's nothing I'd consider revolutionary about Communications Server "14." In fact, most UC vendors are humming the same, or a similar, tune. It's whether or not Microsoft's Communications Server "14" will match up in the real world to the visionary server Singh Pall has described that will set it (and Microsoft) apart from other vendor solutions and end-user adoption will drive the revolutionary aspect.
Microsoft's Communications Server "14" has some compelling features (and I do mean compelling -- you will need to have them):
Microsoft Communications Server "14" extends location and presence information to users both inside and outside the network. For example, if you travel outside your network, you can easily set your location and control who has access to your location and presence information. If you're within the network, the server will automatically update your presence and location information.
With Microsoft Communications Server "14," voice mail is sent directly to the client. Using speech recognition software, Microsoft provides users with a text preview of the voicemail via an email-like interface. Unheard voice mails are in boldface (as are unread messages within most email servers). Messages that have been heard are in regular font.
Each word within the preview is hyperlinked, so users can click at any point (or word) within the text message, and the audio message will play from that point/word forward.
Each word within the preview is hyperlinked, so users can click at any point (or word) within the text message, and the audio message will play from that point/word forward. Voice preview is also available in and translatable to a number of languages.
Both the familiar email-like user interface and boldface/regular indicators we're all accustomed to with email are key factors to consider for end-user adoption and usage. People will embrace the technology if it's intuitive and the user interface is recognizable to them. If it's not familiar, uptake of the technology is sharply diminished, no matter how effective it is.
Skill search query
Microsoft Communications Server "14" has a powerful employee/expert profile search feature called a skill search query that enables users to define specific, multi-layered search parameters within a company's employee profile database, ensuring that people can find a colleague or group with the right expertise to address their needs.
Concurrently, through skill search query, presence and location information is provided. Simply click the contact's name/phone number and you'll be connected to the contact's pre-designated/preferred communication device. Elevating the call from a two-way call to a three-way call or to a videoconference can be achieved within one or two clicks. The query engine is highly intuitive, which makes life that much easier for poor spellers, like me. Skill search query is smart enough to pin down the correct spelling of a name and correlating profile from even a grossly misspelled name.
Call admission control
Any time a media session is started, call admission control is initiated. Call admission control ensures that there is sufficient bandwidth to support your voice and/or video call and automatically adjusts Quality of Service (QoS) settings accordingly. For example, if there's insufficient bandwidth for a videoconference, call admission control will deny video, but permit audio or route the video over the Internet.
Microsoft Communications Server "14" will work with your installed PBX and will be released in the second half of this year.
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