In an international Web conference that connected multiple venues throughout the world, Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates today outlined the company’s vision for integrated communications, joining Microsoft executives to showcase new versions of Microsoft® Office real-time collaboration solutions. During the event, guests from NBC’s “The Apprentice” joined a live collaboration session to demonstrate how real-time solutions improve individual and team collaboration, and help businesses make faster, better and more-informed decisions.

The goal of integrated communications is to help information workers easily and effectively communicate with colleagues, customers and partners in real time. Microsoft will deliver on integrated communications by building presence awareness into all its software applications, integrating various modes of communication (e-mail, phone, instant messaging (IM), short message service (SMS), videoconferencing and Web conferencing) to allow seamless transition from one mode to another, and delivering intelligent software that can manage communications with the context of a person’s availability and preferences.

“We have lots of ways to connect with people using technology, but there are countless opportunities to make them smarter and more efficient,” Gates said. “With these solutions, we can use the power of software to simplify the way we communicate—offering a greater sense of presence, a more unified experience and a more secure, trusted environment.”

Integrated communications solutions will deliver functionality such as the following:

—Rich presence. With presence awareness built into Microsoft software,
information workers can view the context and availability of a person
before initiating communication with her or him.

—Unified experience. Integration among modes of real-time communication
(e-mail, phone, IM, SMS, videoconferencing and Web conferencing) allows
information workers to choose the most appropriate mode of
communication based on the situation at hand, and enables them to
seamlessly transition from one mode to another or use them together.

—Built-in intelligence. With integrated communications, software can
automatically handle communications based on knowledge of people’s
preferences, physical location, organizational relationship and topic
of communication. Software intelligence allows users to control how
incoming communications are routed to them based on their context and
preferences, and who is calling.

Gates underscored Microsoft’s commitment to meeting the needs of all types of organizations through a combination of customizable clients, extensible servers and reliable services that enable integrated communications. This flexible approach allows organizations of all sizes and situations to benefit from integrated communications in a way that meets their scalability, cost and infrastructure requirements.

Gates Announces New Microsoft Office Real-Time Collaboration Offerings

At today’s event, Microsoft executives introduced and demonstrated new Microsoft Office System real-time collaboration products and services that begin to significantly deliver on the company’s integrated communications vision, including these:

—Microsoft Office Communicator 2005 (previously code-named “Istanbul”)
is the new integrated communications application, and is the best
client for Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005.
Communicator provides rich presence and unifies real-time
communications modes—such as IM, voice, video and access to
voiceconferencing and Web conferencing—into a single application. It
also enables PC-to-phone integration.

—Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 Service Pack is an
update to Microsoft’s award-winning real-time communications platform.
The service pack includes support for Communicator, enhanced “spim”
(spam over IM) controls, and enterprise-grade connectivity from an LCS
enterprise to the MSN, AOL and Yahoo! public IM networks. Live
Communications Server provides enterprise IM and an enterprisewide
presence engine.

—Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2005, a major update to Microsoft’s
popular Web conferencing service, helps users conduct effective online
meetings and collaborative sessions without having to be in the same
place at the same time. Key enhancements include the industry’s first
integrated conference call controls for leading audioconferencing
service providers, the ability to have a Live Meeting session from
Office applications, and availability in seven new language versions.

“It is exciting to see Microsoft’s vision of integrated communications becoming a reality for our customers,” said Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of the Real-Time Collaboration Group at Microsoft. “Whether it’s intuitive, contextual communications capabilities for information workers, simplification and lower TCO for IT, or a standards-based extensible platform and tools for developers, the benefits of integrated communications extend across the entire organization.”

Guests From NBC’s “The Apprentice” Collaborate via Live Meeting

To demonstrate the benefits of real-time collaboration, Mark Burnett, creator and executive producer of the NBC show “The Apprentice,” joined Microsoft executives for a collaborative session via Live Meeting. Executives in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, London and New York quickly and effectively used these new tools to brainstorm and conceptualize hypothetical show “tasks” and challenges for future contestants on the top-rated television series.

“It’s often difficult getting the right people in a room together, let alone coming up with and deciding on an exciting business challenge or task idea that makes for good television,” Burnett said. “The ability to instantly connect with the right people to share information and collaborate on ideas—regardless of location—is incredibly powerful. I intend to put Live Meeting to good use both on and off the set of ‘The Apprentice.’”

Integrated Communications Are a Key Element of Microsoft’s Collaboration Strategy

Integrated communications is a key component of Microsoft’s overall collaboration strategy to provide software and services that enable people to connect and work together more effectively.

“Organizations everywhere are under increasing pressure to improve their customer connection, increase bottom-line profitability and invest for future growth,” said Jeff Raikes, group vice president of the Information Worker Group at Microsoft. “We believe that effective collaboration is central to realizing these business objectives. By bringing all modes of communications together in an integrated enterprise-grade platform, we can enable more effective collaboration, thereby enabling organizations to succeed in all three areas.”