Microsoft Small Biz VoIP Gets New Features, Hardware

Microsoft Tuesday at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston released its first major upgrade to Response Point, the vendor's small-business VoIP system software.

Response Point Service Pack 1, available now via a free download, adds support for SIP trunking, click-to-call functionality, a call history log and the ability to select music for parked calls and hold time.

Microsoft also revealed that the Aastra Telecom division of Aastra Technolgies, its most recent Response Point OEM partner, is debuting its first Response Point-based hardware platform, dubbed AastraLink RP. Response Point, targeted at businesses with up to 50 users, is available on systems from three OEM partners: Aastra, D-Link Systems and Quanta Computer.

Aastra's AastraLink RP VoIP family

D-Link and Quanta launched their systems in November. Both vendors will roll out SP1 to their respective Voice Center IP Phone System and Syspine systems.

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A key feature of the software upgrade is the introduction of support for SIP trunking, which enables end-to-end VoIP calling with the Response Point system, said Richard Sprague, senior director of Response Point for Microsoft, Redmond, Wash. Channel partners can become agents to sell VoIP services from Microsoft's service provider partners, including Cbeyond and New Global Telecom, he said. Microsoft also unveiled the addition of Junction Networks as its third VoIP service provider.

SIP trunking and click-to-call functionality via Outlook are two key features that channel partners have been waiting for, said William Brown, associate vice president of technology at D-Link. Another is on its way, he said. "Probably in SP2 we'll get the ability for multiple Voice Centers to be linked as one."

Solution provider Available Networks, which focuses on the SMB space, plans to use the launch of AastraLink RP as the foundation for its new VoIP push.

"and#91;SIP trunkingand#93; is going to be very significant for our customers," said Jeff Loucks, CEO of Available Technology, a solution provider in St. Catharines, Ontario. "People talk about how it lowers costs, but it's really about enabling you to work from home or from different locations. They can get away and the system recognizes them as if they were in the office."

Response Point systems still do not support T1 lines, a feature that some channel partners have said will limit the platform to only the smallest of customers. But Loucks said the addition of SIP trunking overshadows the lack of T1 support.

"Honestly, SIP trunking is the better way to go. T1 is only for markets where they just can't get reliable Internet," Loucks said, adding that while those areas still exist, there are fewer and fewer of them.

NEXT: Aastra's New Hardware Options

Available Technology has already implemented an AastraLink RP system internally and has several interested customers awaiting its launch, Loucks said.

The launch of Aastra's new system adds several new options for channel partners, Sprague said.

"The big opportunity for partners is that now they can sell Aastra, which is actively looking for partners, particularly Microsoft partners," he said.

Aastra's portfolio is unique in that it is the only Response Point product line to include a cordless IP phone option.

The Concord, Ontario-based vendor's lineup includes its AastraLink RP 500 base unit and 540 Gateway, along with the Response Point Administrator Application and Response Point Assistant Application. It also offers three IP phones: the 6751i RP, a one-line phone that features a three-line LCD display and programmable speed dial keys; the 6753i RP, a six-line handset that includes a three-line LCD display and six programmable keys; and the 6757i RP, a nine-line phone that includes a full 144 x 128 pixel display, 12 programmable keys and a cordless handset. The phones range in price from $139 to $399.

Aastra's starter kit, which includes the base unit, external analog telephony adapter and three phones, including one cordless model, is priced at $2,400.

AastraLink RP will be available to channel partners in the U.S. and Canada via Wesbell Technologies, the first North American distribution partner for Aastra's system.