Microsoft and open source company duel over IP telephony

Things are getting tense in the business telephony world. Microsoft is heading for a face-off with the increasingly influential open source company Digium. Both companies are launching competing phone systems for small businesses at the VON 07 trade show in San Jose, California.

In the world of products uniting the worlds of VOIP and traditional telephony, Digium is the more established of the two players, with its open source Asterisk software built into a wide range of products and used by more than two million users.

Until now Digium has concentrated on enterprises and telecommunications providers, with the Asterisk software having become a de facto standard for any company selling x86-based products that combine IP and analog telephony.

At VON the company aimed to extend its reach by introducing an appliance aimed specifically at smaller businesses and branch offices.

The Asterisk Appliance, with no moving parts, no fan and supporting up to 50 users, will be available from Digium or its partners in early May, with prices starting at US$995.

The appliance includes Asterisk Business Edition software and Digium hardware, and supports both VOIP and traditional analog phones. The system runs on Linux.

It includes a full-featured PBX, with voice response, voicemail, conferencing, automatic call distribution and call queuing. It can be administered through a setup wizard and supports autoprovisioning of Polycom IP phones. Digium had a strong presence at VON, with founder and CTO Mark Spencer giving a keynote speech and a number of vendors showing Asterisk-compatible products.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is aiming to better establish itself in the game with a system called Syspine, based on the company’s Response Point software, which will be offered through OEMs Quanta Computer, D-Link and Uniden. Syspine is a direct competitor to Asterisk Appliance, intended for smaller businesses, with no moving parts or fan, and intended to be simple to set up and administer – users should be able, for instance, to add numbers for new employees without any specialized knowledge.

Syspine will begin beta testing next month and become available later in the year.

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