Microsoft this week revealed its intention to discontinue its Response Point, its small business VoIP system for companies with up to 50 employees.
While not unexpected, the move is significant because Response Point was once a promising product in which Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates took a particular interest.
"After taking a good look at the Microsoft Response Point offering and the needs of small businesses, we’ve decided to discontinue the sale, support, and development of the Response Point phone system for small businesses, effective August 31, 2010," Response Point Program Manager John Frederickson said in a Friday blog post.
Although market reaction to Response Point has been positive, Microsoft has "determined that the demand that has materialized in the time since launch isn’t enough to sustain Response Point as a healthy, viable standalone business moving forward," Frederickson said in the post.
Response Point customers will be able to continue using their systems after Aug. 31, and Microsoft will maintain its Response Point information Website until November of 2011.
Microsoft's plans for Response Point were cast into doubt last May when Microsoft laid off several members of the product team. In a town hall meeting with VoIP VARs last June, Microsoft said it wasn't planning to release future versions of Response Point but would continue to maintain the product and evaluate specific feature requests.
Response Point functioned as an independent "startup" within the company and was only peripherally related to company's broader VoIP push, which is spearheaded by Office Communications Server. Response Point is a unique product in that it doesn't require Active Directory or a DNS server as OCS does.
Interestingly, Microsoft apparently believes that OCS can handle the VoIP needs of small businesses going forward. "To continue to support the needs of the small business community, we expect to consolidate our efforts and offerings in this space around Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS)," Frederickson said in the post.
But Office Communications Server 2010, which will launch later this year, features heavy integration with Sharepoint and may be too expensive for some small businesses. The gap Response Point leaves could create opportunities for smaller players like Aastra, Aksys Networks, Adtran, Phone.com, OnSIP, and Speakeasy, according to Harry Brelsford, CEO of Bainbridge Island, Wash.-based SMB Nation and editor of the VoIP blog Telephonation.
In any event, Microsoft will have some explaining to do on the small business VoIP front at its Worldwide Partner Conference in July. A well thought out unified communications road map for small and medium partners could go a long way toward easing the sting of Response Point's demise.