Murky Future For Microsoft Small Business VoIP


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The future of Response Point, Microsoft's foray into the small business telephony market, appears to be in doubt in the wake of layoffs in the group earlier this month. Microsoft says it will continue supporting OEMs, VARs, and service providers that sell Response Point, but is being vague about its intention to continue developing the product.

Specifically designed for SMBs, Response Point is a full-fledged IP PBX system designed for organizations with up to 50 employees. Unlike Office Communications Server, Response Point doesn't require Active Directory and a DNS server. When Microsoft launched Response Point 1.0 in October 2007, solution providers raved about Response Point's affordable price tag and robust feature set, which includes SIP trunking and click-to-call functionality via Outlook.

Response Point was a favorite project of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, and Microsoft has often said the group operates as a sort of independent startup within the company. But any semblance of a cheery startup vibe was likely dampened by an unknown number of layoffs in the group earlier this month.

Microsoft has begun development of Response Point 2.0, but isn't saying much about its plans to continue doing so. In a recent blog post, John Frederiksen, general manager of Response Point, acknowledged that Microsoft "made some changes to the Response Point business" but said little else.

Several Microsoft partners have complained about Microsoft's lack of transparency on the Response Point blog, with one raising the possibility that Microsoft had laid off the entire Response Point team except for Frederiksen. But in an email to Channelweb.com, a Microsoft spokesperson denied that this was the case.

Microsoft will continue to support Response Point version 1.0 and its current OEM partners D-Link, Syspine, Quanta, and Aastra Technologies, as well as the service providers and resellers that sell it, said the spokesperson, who declined to specify how many Response Point employees were laid off.

Customers will continue to be supported through their OEMs, and Microsoft will also continue to promote Response Point online and highlight compatible third party services and add-on products, the spokesperson said.

As for Response Point 2.0, Microsoft "is evaluating the strategy for the next version of the product and will continue to investigate the opportunity in the small business market," the spokesperson said.

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