Microsoft boosts Live Communications Server 2005

Microsoft has showcased the latest in its offerings around real-time collaboration.

In an international web conference, Bill Gates from San Francisco, aided by colleagues in cities across the US and UK, highlighted how updating Office with features that remove restrictions and add richness to the way people work together can benefit the ‘information worker’.

Gates described Office as the ‘most used software application of all time’. He said that this next phase of Office will introduce ‘a new world of work, way beyond what we thought of traditionally with the single worker’. He described it as ‘breaking down the silos and bringing information together’.

The services are enabled by three new versions of Microsoft products.

Live Communications Server 2005 now gets a service pack that will be available this month. This offers connections to MSN, AOL and Yahoo! messaging services and enhanced protection against SPIM. It also meets regulatory requirements for logging IM conversations.

It also allows sysadmins to set policies over how communications are used. ‘Rather than looking at this from the bottom up in terms of providing a rich user experience, we’re now going to give them the management capabilities they like to see,’ said Gates.

On the client side, there is Communicator 2005, available in the middle of the year that gives the user a single interface for communications and contacts. It allows the user to set logical rules about how communications should be routed – eg to a mobile phone when out of the office, to hands-free, to voicemail, and so on. It also gives a single contacts network, whether those contacts be on AOL, Yahoo! or MSN messenger, or email and VoIP or standard PBX phones.

It also has access to presence information from the Live Communications Server that shows whether contacts are on the phone, busy, or available, and offers PC to phoneplus video- and web-conferencing capabilities.

Live Meeting has been updated, too – Gates described it as ‘a pretty big advance’ – and offers the industry’s ‘first integrated conference call controls for leading audio conferencing service providers’ and the ability to start up a Live Meeting session from within an Office application. It also uses the latest Windows Media video and audio codecs to boost quality and reduce bandwidth needs.

The launch was followed by an international web meeting. Although the information was carried across the well-understood IP protocol, the participants were less familiar with the protocol of speaking and waiting for a response, which is especially important when trying to overcome latency issues.

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