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Microsoft Office Communications Server: A fruitless tree?

 

Microsoft’s Office Communications Server 14 is due later this year. But in this lackluster unified communications (UC) market, is that too soon?

This week, Microsoft pushed Office Communications Server (OCS) 14 at VoiceCon Orlando 2010. OCS is an add-on that works with Exchange Server and Microsoft Office. It includes support for instant messaging, voicemail, Internet telephony and conferencing.

Microsoft is touting its latest UC product as a replacement for PBX-based systems. But in a recent call with our Channel Advisory Board, members gave their take on unified communications services, and it wasn’t too promising.

“In the couple instances that we’ve seen, [customers] want [UC], but they don’t want to pay Cisco pricing,” said one of our board members. “They’re more than willing to play around in a Google environment, test it out and see if they want to go the telepresence route.”

During testing, customers realize that their business processes and personnel aren’t synced up for UC, and they can’t get the money. So they try something free and open source first, another board member said.

The corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Office Communications Group, Gurdeep Singh Pall, would probably disagree with that sentiment. At the VoiceCon keynote, Pall said more than 100 million Office users are connected to OCS, and he predicted that within three years, UC capabilities will be integrated into 75% of applications, according to Visual Studio magazine.

Regardless of whether or not UC will be a hit this year, solutions providers should keep an eye out for how they can integrate UC services into their offerings. Hosted UC services can be an especially attractive option for customers that don’t want to spend the money for on-premise UC. This point is best summed up in an article on hosted UC from SearchNetworkingChannel.com.

“In the hosted scenario, the hardware and applications software sit at the provider’s data center, where all of the management and monitoring also take place. For customers, that means no need to purchase equipment except for VoIP phones or cameras for video conferencing … As the service provider, you handle implementation, configuration and customization, and then updates and enhancements over time. Your customers simply pay the monthly bill.”

 

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