Microsoft & Partners Demonstrate Next Gen Phones

At the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference which takes place in Los Angeles this week Microsoft and nine phone manufacturer companies — ASUSTek Computer, GN, LG-Nortel, NEC, Plantronics, Polycom, Samsung, Tatung and ViTELiX — will introduce a new generation of devices that connect the workplace phone to e-mail, instant messaging, real-time presence information, conferencing, VoIP and mobile communications.

Microsoft says that beginning today, a new wave of phones and devices will become available for use in the public beta program of Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007. Microsoft is providing the device manufacturers with design specifications, helping to assure customers that the new phones and devices work easily with Office Communications Server and Office Communicator.

“Today’s office phone is marooned on an island, separate from the rest of the communications 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.”

Talking to Comms Business, Mark Deakin, Microsoft’s UC product manager in the UK, gave additional insight into the Redmond company’s announcements:

“These IP phones and devices we are announcing today, along with our manufacturing partners, are yet more building blocks in the Microsoft Unified Communications offering. By working with our partners and certifying the various devices with Microsoft’s Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator client, we can guarantee the highest quality for the user”.

Deakin went on to add, “This announcement heralds the long awaited fall in prices for IP handsets. Customers will no longer be forced to buy expensive handsets from the IP phone system vendors, but will be able to choose the device most suited to their needs and their budget.”

Whilst the press release didn’t provide much detail on the various devices being launched today, Deakin has set up his own blog page at http://blogs.technet.com/markdea/ where there is a lot more information on the various phones and headsets that have been tested with OCS and OC.

None of the products announced today are on general release yet, but will start shipping in commercial quantities in late summer 2007 alongside of the Microsoft UC software products. However, like OCS 2007 and OC which are available for public beta testing, it is expected that the various manufacturers will make their products available for beta testing during the next few months.

When asked about the pricing and channel strategy for the various devices, Deakin said that each manufacturer would have their own strategy and would set their own prices, so it would be best to contact them directly.

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