Microsoft’s Move Into Communications
Microsoft has announced plans to launch a unified platform for e-mail, instant messaging, videoconferencing, and telephone calls. This move could serve to strengthen the company’s monopolistic characteristics. What’s more, the Redmond-based corporation intends to use Office 2007 as the communications platform.
Jeff Raikes, the president of Microsoft’s Business Division, phrased it very simply: “We are significantly expanding the capabilities that we offer,” he said in a Webcast. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Gartner research firm believes the new Office communications products “won’t be ready for mainstream corporate adoption until 2008.” Microsoft is aiming for a slightly earlier release in November.
Some of the technology is already in place, however. Live Communications Server 2005 is available now, although it will be updated and reintroduced as Office Communications Server 2007. And Microsoft’s existing instant messaging software is well known, if not widely embraced.
That raises another issue the software giant will have to face – competing programs, especially those of the “free” variety. But, as noted in the P-I article, “Zig Serafin, general manager for Unified Communications at Microsoft, said the software maker is hearing from more companies concerned about the security and reliability of free download.”
Serafin also made comments to the effect that Microsoft wanted to bundle these capabilities into one package, even though the company realized there might not yet be a wide demand for it.
IBM appears to believe some sort of presence in this field is well-advised. The company intends to “connect features of its Lotus Sametime instant messaging and Web conferencing program to Microsoft programs such as the Office suite and Outlook e-mail program,” according to the P-I.
In a statement responding to this news, Microsoft appeared unperturbed. “What IBM is announcing is not surprising, and it validates what have been core tenets of our real-time collaboration efforts for some time,” the company said.
The additional features of Office 2007 are intended to boost sales of the product, which have not been impressive lately. The program should give Microsoft an opportunity to try new things, at least. Broadband Internet access and VoIP are among the technologies in which the company is involved, and it is making new friends in the form of hardware manufacturers. Among these is Motorola, the Illinois-based “global communications leader.”
Microsoft’s move may well put it at the head of a new business trend. The omnipresence of the current version of Office, combined with the convenience of the Office 2007 package (in that it is a single package), could set up the new product for widespread adoption. Microsoft seems to be betting on that possibility, at least in the long-term.