March 19, 2007 9:00 AM PDT

Microsoft wants to power the small-business phone, too

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Already looking to take over the corporate telephone system, Microsoft announced Monday its plans to tackle small-business telecommunications as well.

The software maker is announcing Response Point, a computer-controlled phone system expected later this year. Microsoft has developed the software and is partnering with a number of device makers, including Uniden, D-Link and Quanta Computer, which will make the actual phones.

Jeff Smith, a senior product manager at Microsoft, said the new phones are designed to be simple enough that anyone who can run a PC can set up and manage the phone system. Rather than have multiple buttons for transferring calls and for checking voice mail, a single button will enable users to speak to identify the function they want. No need to remember extensions either, Smith said, since the software will know all the names in the company directory and be able to sync with Outlook desktop and Exchange server software.

Smith would not go into the pricing for the new phone system, which requires businesses to buy all-new equipment. For the past eight months, Microsoft has been testing the system with small businesses that have been using it free of charge.

Earlier this month, Business Division President Jeff Raikes offered more details on Microsoft's plans to tackle the corporate telephony market. For that market, Microsoft is expanding its Live Communications Server's corporate instant-messaging product into Office Communications Server, a tool that can also manage large-business phone systems.

Smith said the two efforts share some technology underpinnings but Microsoft decided it made sense to offer a separate product to address small-business needs. The company is announcing the new phone product at its second annual Small Business Summit. Microsoft will have about 300 people on hand at an in-person event for day one of the summit, while the remainder of the five-day affair will take place as a series of Webcasts.

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As with any phone system upgrade, new equiment is necessary. Many companies don't move until the equipment is outdated anyway, and the funds are available to replace the equipment. No system interoperates with other equipment fully.

Microsoft's ideas do make it sound like a good move however. There are too many buttons on many phones as well as large companies with hundreds of extentions, and often the phone systems that allow names per extention get outdated quickly. Using Outlook and Live would simplify the update system and could probably automatically forward calls when the person moves to another desk permanently.

Nice Job Microsoft :)
Posted by timber2005 (720 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think sometimes more physical buttons is good. I don't want to
"speak" my way through a transfer or other menus. That said, I
have phone on my desk with one function button and a convoluted
menu printed above it for how to use complex features. Nor do I
want to repeatedly try to get software to recognize the name I am
speaking when I can more easily type in the extension.
Posted by mudphud (137 comments )
Link Flag
IP Phones aren't new tech. What you do with them is.
You won't see much difference in the phone in the future from the phone on your desk now. Various OEM's will change the feature set, but in the end, it's just a phone.

There are other back end applications that can integrate your phone with your email and desktop, where leaving a message on someone's phone will create an email with a voice attachment that you can listen to on any system with sound. Or when you're typing away on your desktop and get a call, a window will pop up (optional depending upon your preferences) with the caller's information, a chat window, and file transfer option. Or being able to click on someone's name in an email and have it bring up the address book along with the option to call that person directly where the computer then has your desktop phone place the call for you.

There's a lot of neat things that could be done with the services. Integration of the communications channels will help with development a lot, I believe.

While Microsoft is working on it, I'll be more interested in seeing what other developers come up with because competition will really drive this technology.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
Link Flag
Just what I wanted....
If Microsoft's products run my phone system, all the net-twits will be hacking it via the security holes, crashing the system or making long-distance calls on my nickel.
Posted by Get_Bent (534 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And That's New, How?
People have been doing that to PBXs and other corporate phone systems for decades.
Posted by ferricoxide (1125 comments )
Link Flag
Itty Bitty BSOD
I wonder what a touch screen from MS would look like??
Posted by ppgreat (1128 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The terrorists will love this.
It sounds like fun! Just think, on the next 9/11 type attack, all of the infected phone systems will start dialing 911 holding the line for 5 seconds, hang up, then rinse and repeat.

I do want to get a bit of prior art in first. If Microsoft tries to patent the idea of letting the user pick his or her hold music, I thought of it first.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Business will need to buy new equiptment
Well that tile just made this idea a flop. If a business who didn't upgrade to Vista because of compatibility because the cost to switch to it, then why would they spend money to switch their hole pbx system?

It's doomed to fail.
Posted by bradyme (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
obviously have no knowledge of IP phone systems, not just from MS, but from any IP vendor. PBX is old technology. Most companies are upgrading because their current PBX system is old, failing, and is no longer supported. I'm not aware of any IP phone systems that don't require new hardware. There are many benefits including ease of use/management, integration with LDAP/Active Directory, voicemail integration with mail clients, etc etc etc. Whether or not MS' intro into IP phones will be a success is another question, but it's not going to be a failure due to having to upgrade phone hardware.
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Link Flag
Does anyone other than me remember the previous Microsoft Phone? It was the MP-900. It was almost perfect. It cost hundreds of dollars, and I bought it based on the recommendation of internet sites like yours.

Problem: Microsoft introduced XP at the turn of the century and the Microsoft Phone (MP-900)was not compatable with the new Microsoft O/S (XP). Microsoft refused to provide support for their own product. It did not work with XP.

My PERFECT telephony system instantly became obsolete TRASH. Will Microsoft support this new telephony system better than it did for the
Posted by ldenton (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I can hardly wait to reboot during a call...
...with an important client. When will Microsoft start developing
condoms I wonder?
Posted by DemiHampster (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No change from the present
Telephone systems shut down due to infrastructure issues, back end support, heavy loads, or equipment failure. I don't see any change in this because of a different name on the cover of the switch.

There are Linux, Windows, and Cisco systems currently in use today that are all subject to the above conditions. A good system design will help prevent downtime regardless of manufacturer, but one has to realize that companies are cheap and will go with the cheapest possible investment in new equipment and services instead of paying for good designs in the first place to avoid downtime later.

Look at Cingular today as an example. Lowest rated provider with the highest failure rate for calls. It used to be good, but they nickel and dimed it too much and now it's being junked by AT&T.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
Link Flag
It's a good idea, but I wouldn't buy it from Microsoft
From Microsoft I've seen nothing but crappy products, poor service, and a penchant for treating customers like garbage. Plus the fact that this will be another proprietary system intended to lock you into using Windows. No thank you.
Posted by mn39202 (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just think . . .
* Patch Tuesday for your office phone system . . .
* Delayed patches for the voicemail "Ski-ski-ski-pping-pping"
problems . . .
* Just think - These phone systems might actually "Squirt" . . .
* The opportunity to pay your phone bills by purchasing
"Microsoft Points" from "xBox Live" . . .
* The recently patended "Blue Voice of Death" . . .

"Weeeeeee!" . . . . (^0^)/
Posted by K.P.C. (227 comments )
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