Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Microsoft's real-time communication/collaboration strategy

Microsoft's real-time communication/collaboration strategy FYI my latest Smart Solutions column. Excerpt:

Microsoft is basing its real-time vision on a combination of clients, tools, services, and application integration. Clients track contact status and initiate real-time communication sessions. Microsoft currently has two primary real-time clients: Windows Messenger, built into and available exclusively on Windows XP, and MSN Messenger, which runs on multiple Windows versions as well as on Mac OS 9 and X. Windows Messenger is focused on businesses; MSN Messenger is a consumer-oriented offering.

Microsoft's real-time tools include text chat, audio, video, application sharing, and Web conferencing/meeting tools. Both of Microsoft's strategic clients can be extended with additional tools and services. For example, I can invite my Windows Messenger contacts to start Groove because I installed Groove on my PC (and it optionally modifies the Windows Messenger action list).

Services supporting real-time communication include:
Identity and authentication using Active Directory for enterprises and Passport for consumers and small businesses.
Presence awareness and session initiation using the soon-to-be-released Office Real Time Communication Server 2003 (ORTCS 2003, previously code-named "Greenwich") for enterprises, and .NET Messenger Service for consumers and small businesses.
Alert and notification services are required for person-to-person communication, such as notifying someone that you wish to begin an audio chat with them, and for other types of real-time alerts like subscription-based alerts for traffic, news, and stock market headlines. Microsoft currently relies on .NET Messenger Service for notification and offers, along with partners, a wide variety of alert types as well as a software developer kit for developers who wish to use .NET Alerts with Windows Messenger. ORTCS 2003 will play a key role here as well, in business contexts.
Web conferencing and meeting services supplied by PlaceWare, which Microsoft acquired earlier this year.

Application integration is required for real-time contextual collaboration - extending applications and solutions so that people can leverage real-time tools without leaving their current work context. For example, Outlook (XP and later) and MSN e-mail users can see if the person who sent them an e-mail message is currently online and available if the person is also in their Windows Messenger or MSN Messenger contact list. SharePoint, starting in 2003, has similar capabilities.

(See the full article for more.)
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