Microsoft moves into unified messaging

Microsoft Corp. today said it will promote Windows 2000 and its next-generation messaging server Platinum as a platform for unified messaging but leave it to partners such as Lucent Technologies Inc., Nortel Networks and Active Voice Corp. to deliver products in that field. With those partners, Microsoft said it would provide anytime, anywhere access via phone or other devices to a single inbox containing e-mail, voice mail, fax and pager messages.

Microsoft President Steve Ballmer discussed those plans in his keynote at Supercomm in Atlanta today. In a conference call after the keynote, Microsoft's general manager of Exchange, Eric Lockard, said Platinum, the code name for the next version of Microsoft Exchange, will offer "significant improvements" toward unified messaging.

The Web Store, a key component of the Exchange upgrade, will store e-mail and voice messages, Lockard said. And the Web Store's support for streaming media will mean that users can navigate long voice-mail messages -- for instance, by fast-forwarding through certain parts. Platinum, currently in a limited beta release, is expected to ship shortly after Windows 2000, which is due late this year or early next year.

But some analysts were skeptical about the announcement. "Right now, I don't see anything earth shattering," said Tracy Corbo, an analyst at Dataquest. She pointed out that Microsoft isn't promising any major technology innovations. "I guess my overall feeling especially after today is that we will see integrated messaging, but that true unified messaging may never really happen."

Also today, a start-up called OfficeDomain, founded by several former Compaq executives including Gary Stimac, launched a free unified messaging service called MessageASAP.

This story, "Microsoft moves into unified messaging" was originally published by Computerworld.

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