ITEXPO begins in:   New Coverage :  Asterisk  |  Fax Software  |  SIP Phones  |  Small Cells
February 2007
Volume 10 / Number 2

Microsoft Enters the Voice Messaging Market

By Bud Walder, Enterprise View

At the end of November, Microsoft Corporation (quote - news - alert) launched a triumvirate of new products and, in so doing, entered the unified messaging market in what should amount to a very big play. For the first time ever, it announced the simultaneous availability of three major software product releases: the new Windows Vista operating system, Microsoft Office 2007, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. Of course, the enterprise communications industry has been very attentive to Microsoft activity since its much-publicized announcement of its unified communications strategy for the successor to the Live Communications Server product last June. Office Communication Server 2007 is moving into the field trial phase as we enter 2007, and really is big news for the industry. But, somewhat hidden in November’s launch of Vista, Office, and Exchange was the hard fact that voicemail is now being offered by Microsoft for the first time.

The addition of a voice component to Exchange Server 2007, which allows your voicemail to drop into your desktop Outlook window, will likely have a significant impact on the enterprise messaging industry. Of course, unified messaging integrated with Outlook is not new; many current voice messaging offerings have it. But it has really underperformed expectations year in and year out since its introduction in the mid- to late 1990s. There’s been lots of analysis about the whys and wherefores: ‘too expensive’ and ‘difficult to integrate’ often bubble to the top. And it didn’t eliminate the need for a separate voicemail system to manage. But this time it’s different. This time it’s the company that owns at least 50% of the enterprise email server market globally that has said “How about we just add voicemail to your email server so you can eliminate that old school voicemail system altogether?”

To be sure, unified messaging in Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 is not an old school voicemail implementation. As you would expect, it is VoIP-based using the SIP protocol and resides on the enterprise IP network in a data (ok, ‘multimedia’) server. So that’s great if you have a new converged voice and data IP PBX installed with an interoperable SIP interface. But, if you don’t, no worries, Microsoft has addressed the need for integration with the installed base of legacy PBXs too. It established strategic relationships with a select few VoIP/SIP gateway providers, such as Dialogic, to ensure that its Exchange customers can upgrade and benefit from the unified messaging features. Microsoft has done extensive planning and certification of PBX-to-IP media gateways that will provide the critical link between traditional circuit-switched voice and Exchange Server 2007.

From an ROI perspective, the unified messaging option is offered as an incremental license cost to the standard cost of Exchange Server 2007, so the option will likely have a very attractive pencil sell component to sway many CFOs. This is well before they buy into the significant productivity gains that unified messaging really can offer. Speech recognition and text-to-speech for anywhere, any mode access to your Outlook messages and calendar adds sizzle that mobile users will love. The location independence of VoIP enables site consolidation of disparate voicemail systems over the enterprise WAN too, adding more ROI points to the proposal. All this adds up to a pretty compelling alternative to a separate voice messaging system.

In short, Microsoft is making it easy for enterprise customers to just say yes to unified messaging and, in so doing, is poised to make a huge impact on the how the enterprise voice messaging market segment is divided over the next few years. Initially, it’s the large enterprise customers that will likely scoop up this offering and run with it. That will impact the top voice messaging products from the top PBX manufacturers first, but it’s hard to see a reason why its practical appeal would not run wide and deep within the enterprise in short order, touching all segments of the voice messaging market.

There’s lots of news and hype today around unified communications and how Microsoft may very well change the enterprise PBX (define - news - alert) landscape in the coming years with Office Communication Server, and rightly so. But, in the short term, my money is on the success of its immediate, incremental strategy of adding something old, but new to my desktop Outlook window — a voice.

Bud Walder is the Enterprise Marketing Manager at (news - alert) Dialogic Corporation ( and 20- year telecom vet. Dialogic is a leading provider of open systems platforms for the converged communications market. The platforms enable service providers, developers, and systems integrators to deliver services, content, and applications using multimedia processing and signaling technologies to enterprise and service provider markets.



Today @ TMC
Upcoming Events
ITEXPO West 2012
October 2- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
The World's Premier Managed Services and Cloud Computing Event
Click for Dates and Locations
Mobility Tech Conference & Expo
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
Cloud Communications Summit
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas