Siemens, Microsoft team on real-time communications

Siemens AG is collaborating with Microsoft Corp. to integrate telephony-based services into real-time communications applications.

The German company, better known for its enterprise and carrier network equipment, is developing a software platform that adds fixed-line telephony, cellular and wireless capabilities to new presence and collaboration-driven applications supported by Microsoft's soon-to-be-launched RTC Server 2003 software, said Bernd Kuhlin, president of the enterprise networks unit at Siemens, Thursday in Munich at a real-time communications event co-hosted with the U.S. software company.

Siemens' OpenScape is a new software platform under development that will sit on top of Microsoft's new real-time server software running on Windows Server 2003 technology, according to Kuhlin. The OpenScape system, he said, will support a wealth of real-time voice, video and wireless communications, messaging services such as e-mail, voicemail and SMS (Short Message Service) and a range of calendaring and collaboration applications from Web conferencing and whiteboarding to document sharing.

A beta version of OpenScape is expected later this year, "shortly after Microsoft has launched its new real-time communications server product," Kuhlin said.

The two companies are approaching the market from opposite directions, according to a Microsoft representative. "We're really coming from different sides of the market, Microsoft on the server side, Siemens on the telephony side," said Andrew Sinclair, group manager of the real-time collaboration group at Microsoft. "There is a joining of forces in the middle."

The collaboration with Siemens isn't exclusive, said Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of Microsoft's real-time communications group. "We're a company that likes to partner, so we expect to work with other vendors in this area."

That said, companies like Siemens that are developing products now, will have an edge, according to Sinclair. "Our collaboration with Siemens is really about time to market, and Siemens is definitely moving quickly," Sinclair said.

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