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Microsoft later this month will open the beta testing of its Office Communications Server 2007 to the public, the company said Wednesday at VoiceCon Spring 2007.
The VoIP and unified communications server, which has been in private beta since December, is the successor to the vendor's Live Communications Server. Office Communicator 2007, Microsoft's unified communications client, will also be available via the public beta.
Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's Business Division, is scheduled to disclose the planned March beta debut Wednesday morning during a keynote address at the Orlando conference. VoiceCon is run by CMP Technology, the parent company of CRN and ChannelWeb.
Raikes will also share several Microsoft predictions on the future of the VoIP market. The company says pricing of the average IP telephony solution will drop by half within the next three years as software becomes a bigger piece of the VoIP equation. Over that same time frame, Microsoft expects 100 million people to have the ability to make calls from its Office applications, which the company says is twice the number of current business VoIP users.
"This is a big growth area for us. It's a big bet," said Janice Kapner, director of unified communications marketing at Microsoft, Redmond, Wash.
On the product front, Office Communications Server 2007 adds new on-premise conferencing capabilities and is scheduled for release to manufacturers this summer, Kapner said.
Solution providers will be a key piece of the rollout, with some channel training already underway and an aggressive channel push planned for the summer, she said. "It's mission-critical for us to make sure they understand our products and our strategy."
While many Microsoft partners have been anxiously awaiting the public beta, others feel left out.
"If the pricing came down and the administrative and hardware requirements were brought down as well, then for sure it could have a place in the higher-end SMB market," said Marc Harrison, president of Silicon East, an SMB-focused Microsoft partner in Manalapan, N.J. "I'd love to see that."
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