Microsoft's voice-over-IP server and client software is ready, and will be available in six to eight weeks.

Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business division, has said Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 and the Office Communicator 2007 client were complete, and they would be released to manufacturing (RTM) this week.

RTM means code development is complete, and product discs are ready to be pressed and prepared for distribution, which takes place roughly six to eight weeks after the RTM date.

"With this milestone we are one step closer to delivering products that establish Microsoft as a major force in unified communications and voice," said Raikes. He predicted the software will let companies cut in half what they spend on telephony. "Users will get more value at less cost by focusing on software for this approach [to voice]."

Raikes also showed the server and client integrated with Office PerformancePoint Server to demonstrate that users can integrate collaboration technology and business intelligence.

OCS 2007, which supports the Session Initiation Protocol, lets users launch phone calls from Office 2007 applications, such as Word, Outlook, or Office Communicator 2007, simply by clicking on the name of another user.

Microsoft also is positioning OCS 2007 alongside Exchange 2007, which was released late last year, as a unified messaging platform. Exchange integrates with OCS 2007 to support its built-in auto-attendant for answering and routing inbound voice calls, as well as unified messaging that unifies voice mail and email in a single inbox.

Raikes reiterated that within three years Microsoft believes more than 100 million people will be able to click-to-call from Microsoft Outlook, SharePoint, and other Microsoft Office System applications.

Microsoft will compete for those users with companies like IBM and Cisco.

Microsoft is touting its platform as the integration point between VoIP technology and existing telephony systems.

"We can bring voice to customers, and they can get this value and they don't have to rip and replace," said Raikes. "They can build this new capability on their existing infrastructure."

To support its entry into the voice market, Microsoft is partnering with many vendors including Nortel. Last year, the two unveiled their Innovative Communications Alliance that incorporates Microsoft's unified communications software and Nortel's Communications Server 1000 IP-PBX.

Microsoft also has announced partnerships with Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel Networks, NEC Philips Unified Solutions, Polycom and Siemens.

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