Microsoft has launched the first public beta of its Office Communications Server 2007 and Officer Communicator client.
The company has made the server software available for download, giving corporate users their first chance to test drive the software.
OCS 2007 is the centrepiece of Microsoft's unified communications strategy to bring together email, instant messaging, presence, voice and video. It is a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based server that can route and switch IP-based voice traffic as well as instant messaging and web conferencing sessions.
Microsoft hopes to storm the voice market that is attracting other heavyweights such as Cisco and IBM. The software giant has grand plans for the success of OCS, set out by Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business division laid out those goals at VoiceCon conference in Florida earlier this month.
“Within three years, more than 100 million people will be able to make phone calls from Microsoft Outlook, SharePoint, and other Microsoft Office Systems applications, and customers will be able to gain this value with VoIP solutions that are half the cost of what they are today," he said.
Microsoft describes the server as an "extensible VoIP foundation" and touts its
integration with Exchange and Active Directory infrastructure.
OCS will let users instantly launch a phone call from Office 2007 applications, such as Word, Outlook or the Office Communicator, by simply clicking on the highlighted name of another user stored in Active Directory.
Microsoft is positioning OCS 2007 along side Exchange 2007, released late last year, as a unified messaging platform. Exchange integrates with OCS 2007 to support its built-in auto-attendant for answering and routing inbound voice calls as well as unified messaging that unifies voice mail and email in a single in-box.
Microsoft has also made available a public beta of Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 Speech Server.
Final shipment of OCS is slated for mid-2007, with sources saying that the server should be generally available in June.