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In a virtual event, Microsoft Corp. Tuesday introduced the world to Release 2 of Office Communications Server 2007, the software giant’s unified communications platform. R2, which is the first upgrade since OCS was launched in October 2007, improves conferencing and voice capabilities and adds new developer tools – all with the goal of better infusing UC into business processes.

“That is the magic of software and a key advantage of the Microsoft platform,” said Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft’s Business Division, who kicked off the online launch event, which featured customers and partners as well as demos of R2’s capabilities.

Elop said R2 caps off a year of growth for OCS and already has produced tangible savings for its customers – among them Microsoft itself, which has 40,000 employees using OCS as their only voice solution. He said Microsoft already has saved $90 million in travel expenses and projects it will save another $9 million on conferencing services over the next three years by using OCS.

Intel also has more than 3,000 employees using VoIP to the desktop with plans to have 10,000 set up by the end of the year. Greg Bryant, an Intel vice president, said his company uses one million minutes of conferencing per day, and he expects to save 20 percent on those costs going forward.

Among the laundry list of enhancements, one of the more noteworthy is Microsoft Office Mobile Communicator, an integrated mobile client that provides presence, IM and single number functions to make the mobile device and extension of the desktop phone. It’s now available on Nokia S40, Motorola Razr, Blackberry and Windows mobile platforms.

Single Number Reach is a new server feature that intelligently forwards calls to a user’s cell phone and treats calls initiated on a cell phone as business calls, allowing the enterprise to integrate voice mail messages and consolidate call records for compliance and billing purposes. With Single Number Reach, voice messages are deposited into a central, enterprise voice mail system.

Eric Swift, senior director of the UC marketing group, said OCS also adds the ability to collaborate in real time. With a click of a mouse, you can invite a colleague into a desktop-sharing environment, he said. Another cool addition is cross-platform desktop sharing, which allows users to share their desktop to collaborate with external users on PC, Mac and Linux platforms.

OCS R2 also includes support for SIP trunking connections to the PSTN without gateways. Sprint Nextel Corp. and Global Crossing Ltd. are the first certified SIP trunking partners.

In all, more than 30 partners launched products around R2, including 10 new audio/visual devices that will be available in the next few months.

On the developer side, Microsoft is offering new tools to help build business solutions, combining existing applications and workflow with presence and communication tools. In addition, it is enabling partners to help with existing PBX or video conferencing infrastructure to integrate with OCS directly or through gateways, allowing customers to depreciate assets rather than ripping and replacing.

PhonemagTeam

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