I recently posed a question to a wide range of colleagues, most of whom work work within the telephony industry. I asked…”What are your thoughts regarding the industry impact of Microsoft OCS 2007 and their overall offerings in the UC and VoIP space.” Well, I received many opinions, and I have summarized them below.

MS will push hard into this space and spend lots of marketing dollars. Whether they succeed, they’ll increase the visibility of VoIP which will help the industry overall.

Voice has become nothing more than an application on a network at this point. Hardware vendors drive the adoption of Internet-enabled voice to drive the sales of switch ports and router processors. For software vendors such as Microsoft, this is a space which is extremely foreign to them. They view the integration of voice into the operating system and messaging platforms (Exchange) as crucial to keeping up the viability of their current install base. However, there is a lack of understanding by Microsoft of how you get their software to become a centerpiece in a communications environment. This is the only place that they feel comfortable. Microsoft keeps doing the “me too” “me too” routine when it comes to innovation. Always a day late and a dollar short. Companies like Avaya and Cisco will always be at the center of this technology for large corporations. Microsoft will play well to small installations. If they truly want to hit the big time, they will have to play well with others. History has shown that this normally isn’t the case.

The marketing impact Microsft OCS 2007 can be felt across the telecom industry including the peripheral products.
An example is the headset industry. More and more manufactures will become Mircosoft certified partners and prodvide Microsoft OCS targeted or enhanced products. See www.jabra.com/microsoft for the latest VOIP headset offerings.

Microsoft entering the UC/VoIP industries validates the fact that consumers and businesses alike demand more effective and cheaper communication technologies.
Microsoft enters markets that it can attempt to dominate, but UC and VoIP is such a big market, I am not worried about loosing much to Microsoft – given their track record with writing software…

In theory Microsoft’s entry into this space makes lots of sense. However I think they will struggle with the execution. It’s not clear to me that they understand the buyer or the pain points, primarily for the SME audience that surely must be their target. In the right hands what they’re doing could certainly be highly disruptive, but I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not sure it’s in the right hands…

With unquestioned indifference the Microsoft OCS 2007 eases the minds of many who are on the fence about a move to VoIP from their traditional analog. The OCS gives the benefit to achieve the crossover with far less difficulty. The product’s true progress will be dependent on how quickly manufacturers can implement this as an inclusion of purchase with their VoIP hardware offerings.

Microsoft is likely going to be pitching a fairly limited segment with OCS 2007. I’m guessing the best (only?) candidate is the SMB with an IT staff, already running Exchange and Active Directory. I’m sure a fair amount of companies fit this profile. I’m also sure there are a lot of companies unwilling to pay the Microsoft tax, and several open source alternatives exist (though probably not so neatly packaged).

Microsoft will probably be good for business customers that need a VoIP solution, but I would like to see Linux or other open source VoIP programs such as Asterisk fill the needs of business as well.

Microsoft smells an opportunity. They want to leverage their Exchange Server installs. Outside of that market segment, I don’t think they’ll have much success at all. They will, however, dump millions into advertising, campaigning, and education of the layperson into to the basics of VOIP, which we will all be able to leverage, no matter whether we use their product or not. Overall I think this is an excellent opportunity, as not everyone has their clout nor assets, but we can all make use of the “output” of their efforts, so to speak.

I’m with everyone else that this is good for VoIP in general, as it will catapult awareness to the general public. A rising tide lifts all boats. Like many of Microsoft’s recent “innovations,” the proprietary nature of the application will hinder its adaptation with one segment of the population, and help its adaptation with businesses that have already swallowed the Microsoft kool-aid. No click-to-call unless you have the entire Office suite might come back to bite them. And no XMPP is disappointing, but most people probably don’t care about that. They are on track with the idea that everything’s moving to the server eventually – we’ve come full circle from mainframe to desktop and back again.

My experience leads me to state that OCS is a great opportunity for system integrators. OCS is a great software platform for IP communications but it’s a bad solution when it comes to its integration with legacy systems. There are many “traditional” telecom aspects/services that MS doesn’t cover (for their own choice, an example is the “concept” of attendants). Some telecom operators in Europe are already dealing with this problem that becomes a big opportunity for system integrators that can come out with gateway solutions in order to make inter-working possible. Many SI are already working hard on this.

I view it as an extension of our market research efforts: analysts will tell us market sizes and adoption rates of features. I view it as an extension of educational services: they will spend marketing money on educating users. I view it as entertainment and I view it as a sport – watching it’s Vista-like success! Thanks Microsoft for helping open source Asterisk and Digium – which are customizable, personalizable, and extensible!

It will take them some time but it will definetly get market momentum raisng awareness and opportunity for UC solutions. Microsoft is doing a me too on their own platform. Nothing related to Microsoft becomes mainstream until Microsoft confirms it. It will be intersting on how the traditional voice and data channels adapt their business models to support this market.

Unified Communications is the “thing to do” in business now. This trend is highlighted in expos, conferences, blogs, and press releases everywhere. So many companies are offering some form of a Unified Communications service that it almost becomes confusing. (http://www.pulver.com/unifiedCommunications/2007/boston/web/)
An issue arises because there are so many different offerings with different premises. It is fine for different companies to have internal systems that do not match the other companies with whom they do business, but when the companies attempt to share information, there are extra steps that need to be taken for the lack of the common denominator. For this reason, I am very excited that Microsoft is taking such an active role in the Unified Communications phenomenon. They offer a free trial, and the ability to use the same tools most businesses already employ, but more effectively. I think that Microsoft might one day take over the world – it already has most of our hearts. I can imagine the grand jury fidgeting in their seats already.

The part that is both amusing and somewhat annoying is that Microsoft will undoubtedly market this as if they thought of it and will push it with typical MS methodology… i.e., they’ll never be a real threat to the other providers of unified systems or platforms. Considering the fact that the Asterisk VoIP open source community is among the most active and well-supported projects in the world, how does MS and its typically closed-source-pay-us-to-market-to-you business model plan to compete? While I certainly respect the accomplishments of Microsoft from a purely capitalistic view, I also readily admit that they have rightfully earned their nickname of “Mediocresoft.” In short, they’re just another vendor throwing their hat in the ring– LATE. They’ll win market share, but they’ll never dominate the VoIP space.

(XXXX) have been using LCS internally for over a year, and OCS upgrade is planned next. Everyone in the company has a headset, and we use Communicator for internal and external calls, Instant Messaging, plus of course Video Conferencing and Sharing Applications/Whiteboarding.
We are also using OCS to provide Federation, e.g. our own customers and partners that use OCS can be federated into our network and phone/chat/VC/etc directly with us, and with other customers and partners with whom we federate. This started off slowly, but is now gaining speed, and we see this as a key benefit of OCS. Viral communications within Interoute is a done deal – we are already there – so adding customers and partners is the next key step.
Note that OCS supports different ways to connect to the outside world. You can buy a hardware box and manage itself or you can buy a managed service from a company that offers softswitch voice services (yes, like us). The advantage of softswitch based service is that it provides connectivity to legacy services. Internally we have Alcatel and Avaya, and using softswitch our communication crosses from voice platform to voice platform without worrying about TDM or VoIP interfaces or incompatible encoding or signalling protocols. Most importantly, it makes the OCS -vs- TDM -vs- other VoIP systems migration problem irrelevant. Users or departments move as and when it makes business sense, and not if it doesn’t. We have users with both conventional handsets and OCS/Communicator/Headsets and the ability to track “hard to reach” people plus the other benefits means that OCS is now the prime “telephone system”. My own headset is bluetooth enabled, so I can answer calls in the canteen or in a meeting room – the fact that OCS is PC based is irrelevant.

Note that a soft service based OCS also makes it much easier to control federation – a web front end provides the capability rather than manual federation entries and hope the different hardware gateways work together (and getting two IT departments talking to each other is not going to result in any quick fixes).
The productivity enhancements within Interoute have paid for licenses, deployment and ongoing support costs within the first 3 months. Any distributed organization which wants the Exchange integration, federation with customers/partners, and “instant” migration to VoIP should consider OCS. Also OCS is more evolutionary than revolutionary (if you use a softswitch based service) as you get internal and external connectivity on day 1, but everyone doesn’t have to make the move as service bridges the different platforms whether or not existing handsets are unplugged). But of course, those who chose alternative VoIP systems or stick with TDM can also benefit from softswitch based voice services. It will be multiple vendor choice (and ease of integration) that will drive true competition.



Your email address will not be published.

  1. One of the critical success factors however for how well Microsoft will be able to establish OCS globally will be the availability of OCS devices, in particular the RoundTable.

    Microsoft has failed thus far to certify the devices widely so as a result you only get it in just 10 countries at this stage (US, CA, UK, FR, DE, IT, NL, ES, JP, AU) … so for anyone outside of these countries, such as Hong Kong, looking to get one there’s no published roadmap nor timeline even. This will also mean that companies with international presence that like to use the RoundTable devices can forget about using RoundTable for all subsidiary locations, unless they order them through any of the above 10 countries and then ship them to other countries not on the list. But that likely violates the license agreement (since they are not certified) and you won’t have warranty support in other countries.

    This significantly weakens the OCS value in my view since LiveMeeting without RoundTable is not much more than what you get with WebEx for a long time and desktop video conferencing, IM and presence can be had with Skype Business for much lower investments.

    So, Microsoft, when will this be made available in other countries?

  2. snom technology AG (Berlin, Germany), developer and manufacturer of Voice over IP (VoIP) telephones (www.snom.com), announced (21st May) the first open-standard SIP Phone that can natively register @ Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007.

    More information can be found here:



    What does this news mean to the Microsoft Unified Communication ecosystem? Only a alternative to a Communicator Phone Experience Device (aka Tanjay), only a hybrid SIP + OCS phone?

    I hope it is much more than that, it opens totally new ways of using OCS and the Communicator.

    Not only communication, presence awareness, etc.. In my dreams, I see additional features in terms of instrumentation, control and automation (ICA).

    At the moment the beta firmware of the snom OCS edition is available for all snom 3XX. It will allow you to register your OCS-account as one identity configured on the phone (note you can have multiple identities configured on a snom phone – e.g. for “voip-roaming”).

    · You can start calls by dialing a number, enter an OCS sip account or use the integrated LDAP-client to lookup in Active Directory. This will offer you an AD-search in a configured organizational unit. The result will provide you with the phone numbers of an account or contact and also the sip-adress (msRTCSIP-PrimaryUserAddress).

    · You can receive calls at a OCS registered snom phone. Note: If you wonder about audio codecs – fortunately OCS2007 offers more than only Microsoft RealTime Audio J. The real pitfalls are SIPoverTCP and NTLM for standard SIP phones. (Btw. snom phones were able to talk SIPoverTCP from their first days. A snom370 will offer also VPN-standalone capabilities.)

    · You can transfer calls to a number, an OCS sip account or use the integrated LDAP-client to lookup in Active Directory, as described before.

    That is all for now. Features like Presence, maybe Edge Server Support, etc. will be added later. I hope they will also add uaCSTA extension in snom phones, because this would add OCS RemoteControlCapabilities to it.

    I can’t wait to see a complete snom OCS phone, also with Instant Messaging! Why I want to have IM in a phone?

    Just imagine what you can do with a phone like this (or devices based on it). Some examples:

    temperature-,shock-,noise-, movement-, sensors, fire detectors, factory sirens, door intercom and openers, light and shutter control, – unlimited opportunities via Instant Messaging, Presence, Location & Status Comment, in real-time.

    Some of these ideas are possible right now. You can e.g. connect an Allnet Sensormeter All400 to a snom phone to get control over your facility environment via the phone.

    Imagine now that a full-fledged snom OCS phone (or a device based on it) can report all the information via IM to OCS / OC-Users and with an OCS Archiving Server all reports go into an SQL-Server for additional processing.

    Your facility environment will become accessible to you as a Communicator buddy. I will love to receive a communicator call from our “front door buddy”. Then talk to the visitor (maybe including video) and simply chat to the door buddy “open”. J Maybe we will also see a standalone IP-camera which is accessible as a communicator buddy – simply goes off the hook if I am calling, and in its buddy list with the correct permissions.

    All that can be run on IP/TCP networks, with SIP, XML and POE.J

    Summarily: The realm of possibility in Unified Communication and Collaboration will become much bigger than we can imagine today.

    I’m looking forward to read your comments, ideas, etc…

    Have a good weekend! Best regards,

    Jan Boguslawski

    P.S.: one might think I am employed at snom. But I am not. November 2006, I went crazy , trying to find a real phone (instead of UMTestTool.exe, or x-lite) that was able to call Exchange2007 UM Beta server without a pbx or gateway, just for a small customer demo. The only phone that was able to do it, was and is a snom. So I came in contact with the fabulous guys at snom.

    Since I heard “Welcome, your connected to Microsoft Exchange…”, for the first time, I was infected by the UC virus.