Microsoft, Siemens ink collaboration partnership

Microsoft Corp. and Siemens Information and Communications on Tuesday plan to unveil an alliance designed to bring together the two vendors’ collaboration and communications products.

The companies will align market development and sales efforts around core collaboration products: Microsoft’s Office Live Meeting, Istanbul IM client, and Office LCS (Live Communications Server) 2005 and Siemens’ HiPath OpenScape presence-enabled collaboration portal.

In addition, Microsoft and Siemens will jointly sell and market the Siemens HiPath OpenScape TCL (Telephony Control Link), a new offering due in the first half of 2005. TCL will integrate with LCS 2005 and Istanbul, providing built-in presence technology to let users see phone status as part of overall user presence, according to Microsoft and Siemens officials.

TCL, which is a separate server that sits between LCS and the PBX, provides a click-to-call capability in the Istanbul IM client and lets IM users receive notification of incoming desktop phone calls. TCL works with Siemens PBX systems as well as PBX offerings from competitors such as Alcatel, Avaya Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., and Nortel Networks Corp., according to Adam Moise, business development manager at Siemens Communications.

Jointly selling integrated, presence-enabled collaboration and communication systems to customers is part of both Microsoft’s and Siemens’ vision to unite the telephony and desktop worlds.

“We believe enhanced communication through presence awareness will help drive the future of communications,” said Moise.

The expansion of presence awareness to include desktop telephone activity will benefit enterprise users, according to Marc Sanders, senior product manager for Real Time Collaboration at Microsoft.

“By linking the PBX desktop phone with Istanbul, now you can have phone presence in addition to just online and offline information,” he said. According to Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research, presence-awareness technology started out as a feature of IM but is making a beeline in the direction of telephony.

“What you are seeing is a logical integration of telephony and presence capabilities (that is) expanding the whole concept of presence,” Osterman said. “At its core IM is a presence engine with e-mail on top. It was marketed as capability to send text, but the real underlying technology is presence. Now instead of just seeing that someone is at the computer, now you see that the person is on the phone. It gives additional clues about how to communicate with them.”

Integrating presence awareness and telephony, Osterman said, “is providing more fine-grained presence information for users. This is a very strong direction that presence is taking, and we will see more announcements in the next six months about this.”