Microsoft Delivers New Generation of Workplace Cell Phones

Microsoft will literally place its stamp on a new wave of qualified mobile phones that are designed to be compatible with its main communications products.

The software giant unveiled 15 phones made by a variety of vendors including Samsung, LG-Nortel, NEC, Plantronics, Asus, GN, Polycon, Tatung and Vitelix that come with stickers alerting customers they are certified for use with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007.

“This is basically a must-do type of initiative,” Laura DiDio, an analyst with Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld. “Office Communications Server needs phones to communicate with.”

Integrating Products

Microsoft hopes to establish an edge by integrating its server with widely used products such as Exchange 2007 and enabling unified services, noted DiDio, who called the service “evolutionary.”

“They are building on an existing platform by integrating it with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007,” she said.

The communications software, combined with other Microsoft programs, unifies e-mail, instant messaging and video conferencing functions, allowing users to do things like click on an e-mail message to make a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) call to its sender.

The package is currently available to users who are part of a public beta program.

Office phones are generally “marooned on an island” and often remain separate from the rest of the communication tools that information workers rely on to do their jobs, said Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division.

“By weaving the business phone together with e-mail, instant messaging, presence, conferencing and the productivity software people use most, we are putting voice communications back into business,” he added.

Microsoft is now providing other device manufacturers with design specifications to help assure customers that new phones and devices work easily with Office Communications Server and Office Communicator. The software also supports standard desk phone features.

Compatibility Out of the Box

While Microsoft designed the software to be compatible with phones already on the market, the new qualification program is meant to assure buyers devices will work out of the box with Microsoft’s unified communications products, according to the company.

In order to qualify for the certification, handsets must include wideband audio support, comply with a wide range of VoIP codecs and include specific user interface elements, Microsoft said.

In addition, some of the new phones connect directly to a USB port so that mobile workers can bring the phone with them and use it with their laptops to access features traditionally limited to desk phones, such as call forwarding and conferencing.

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