Microsoft used its VoiceCon Orlando keynote Wednesday to attack the desk phone and traditional telephony vendors in general as a hindrance to cost savings that businesses need to realize in order to deal effectively with the bad economy.
The answer, according to the company's vice president of the unified communications group, Gurdeep Singh Pall, is Office Communication Server 2007 with its softphone client and integrated instant messaging, video, Web conferencing, audio conferencing and support for telephony hunt groups.
He dwelled upon cost savings as being paramount right now and pointed out how OCS could help do that, as well as improve productivity -- getting more for less. He said the Microsoft software platform will also position businesses for growth when the economy improves.
Desk phones, at US$300 each, can be eliminated altogether and replaced by PCs that are already on desktops and that serve other functions. With IP phone sets, the move to softphones cuts the need for switch ports and reduces overall power consumption, Pall said.
He likened phones to Brother word processors that used to sit on corporate desks right next to PCs until word processing was enabled on the PCs, he says. He pointed to Microsoft-certified laptops from Lenovo that have speakers, microphones and Web cams that support OCS telephony and video requirements.
Similarly, traditional PBX vendors sell phone systems that rely on phones and PBXs, even if they give the PBXs a different name like call managers. "I can call myself Tiger Woods, but I still can't shoot [under] 100," he said.
OCS 2007, he said, relies on standard devices and is more open to customer-written applications. During his talk he demonstrated a call-attendant application that ran on a MacIntosh.
Pall also brought out Microsoft OCS customers to testify to cost savings and increased productivity. Swiss telelcom provider Swisscom has plans to roll out OCS to 17,000 employees by May, after a trial with 500 users proved successful, said the firm's head of collaboration services Andreas Arrigoni.
The software helped shorten sales cycles by 20% and freed up 20 minutes per person per day with efficiencies that left time to do more work, Arrigoni said. The system also supports federated presence so workers at Swisscom can see whether individuals at partner companies are available and by what means.
Pall drew similar testimonies from customers BNSF Railway and Sprint. OCS customer BT America said it wrote its own application to OCS that finds key decision makers and links to them globally. Using OCS within business processes cuts costs by using less expensive and most effective communications modes -- voice, video, instant messaging, said Randy Schrock, vice president of corporate alliances with BT America.
He said the platform has helped cut the time it takes to get new products to market.
Pall said Microsoft's software is compatible with common programming platforms that most customers already use. "It's easy to customize," he said.
Adopting these aspects of unified communications may require dramatic changes, but it is necessary, he said.