Microsoft Calls For Death Of Desk Phone

During his keynote address, Pall detailed Microsoft's vision for VoIP and unified communications, built on Microsoft Office Communication Server 2007 and the February debut of OCS Release 2, while also taking a few jabs at the competition.

"OCS is a single platform on which you can do everything," he said, adding users can leverage instant messaging, audio and video conferencing, voice mail, telephony and more from a single OCS infrastructure. "This is one infrastructure. This isn't five infrastructures with copious amounts of duct tape around them."

According to Pall, a software approach is fundamentally different from the way the world understands voice communications, but in order to stave off the recession and be ready to strike when it recedes, he challenged users to capitalize on shifts in the market and move away from the old model of voice and communications.

"Innovation is key, transformation is key," he said, later adding, "The choices you make are very, very critical at this stage."

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A software approach, Pall said, is key to the transformation. OCS, he said, has been found to produce a return on investment in an average of two months by improving productivity, reducing time to complete projects and by reducing travel, conferencing, infrastructure and calling costs.

The hardware-based VoIP model, Pall said, is chock-full of unnecessary costs, including hardware telephones; additional routers, switches and power to keep those phones connected and running; additional power to run and cool that networking gear; VPN equipment to accommodate remote workers; and costs associated with Power over Ethernet. A hardware-centric approach causes costs to continue to multiply, and that business-as-usual attitude just won't cut it, he said.

"I don't care if you took the PBX and called it Call Manager now, it still hasn't changed," Pall said, in an obvious sucker punch at Cisco Systems. "I could call myself Tiger Woods, but I can't shoot 10 under."

Pall brought several OCS 2007 R2 customers to the stage to illustrate the cost savings they've achieved. Gary Grissum, vice president of telecom for BNSF Railway said he's saved roughly $200,000 annually by retiring his legacy voicemail system. Michael Browne, vice president of IT client services for Sprint said the carrier has chopped $6 million per year in local network cost reductions. And Andreas Arrigoni, head of collaboration services for Swiss telecom provider Swisscom, said his company has gained a strong competitive edge and shortened sales cycles since deploying OCS.

To illustrate some of the capabilities, Microsoft's unified communications group product manager Feliz Montpellier demonstrated some recent OCS advancements, using OCS 2007 Attendant, a client that looks like Office Communicator but is designed for high-volume telephony and contact center users. The tool lets users break contacts down into categories and add notes about specific contacts that appear during a call. Attendant also lets users type in the subject of a call, customize hold music and drag and drop a call to transfer it. Montpellier said the application serves the same purpose as a bulky traditional hardware attendant console without the added cost and desktop real estate.

Montpellier also showed how Microsoft unified communications can run on a Mac, taking a page from the new round of Microsoft television spots that poke fun at the high-cost computers.

"If money is no object and you want to make a fashion statement, you have another option," she said, flipping open a MacBook.

The demonstration, Pall said, show that a software-based VoIP approach is ready for prime time.

"At this point, a lot of the excuses for not moving to a software-based approach are going away," he said, comparing desk phones to the Brother word processors of yore -- bulky, archaic devices that sit on a desk next to a PC, despite the software on the PC offering the same functionality.

Holding a standard desktop telephone in one hand and a netbook PC in the other, Pall asked attendees which devices CIOs and CFOs would rather spend $300 on.

"With a software approach to unified communications, you can do more," he said. "Remember the Brother word processor? It's gotta go When the economy rebounds, you have to be ready for the future and not be held back by the shackles of yesterday."