Microsoft to ship RTC Server 2003 in Q3

Microsoft Corp. will begin shipping its real-time communications RTC Server 2003 software in the third quarter as the company moves to capture a share of the enterprise instant messaging (IM) and collaboration market.

“We will begin shipping the English-language version in the third quarter, with the German and Japanese versions to follow around two weeks later,” said Anoop Gupta, corporate vice-president of the real-time collaboration group at Microsoft, Thursday at a real-time communications technology event co-hosted by Siemens AG in Munich. “We will announce pricing in June.”

The software represents Microsoft’s push into presence-based applications, which show when users are online and available to communicate.

RTC Server 2003 will replace Microsoft’s Exchange 2000 IM server technology, according to Andrew Sinclair, group program manager in Microsoft’s real-time collaboration group. It will run on top of Windows Server 2003, he said.

Windows Messenger 5.0 will be a triple-stack client, supporting MSN Messenger, Exchange 2000 IM and RTC Server 2003, according to Sinclair. “We are providing a very clean migration from the Exchange 2000 IM product to RTC Server 2003,” he said.

MSN Messenger can also be “branded,” Sinclair said: “That means enterprises can customize it.”

A major feature of RTC Server software, according to Gupta, is security, which comes in direct response to customer demands. Chief information officers (CIOs), especially those at banks, have voiced many security concerns about IM services, he said: “Our product is designed to address these concerns.”

The server, based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE) standards, offers several security features, including encrypted messaging and logging and archiving of instant messages.

The IM functionality of RTC Server 2003 includes data collaboration, PC-to-PC voice and video.

Indeed, collaboration is a central focus of Microsoft’s assault on the real-time communications software market. “We believe that the way to drive the use of RTC Server 2003 is by integrating real-time collaboration features into applications,” Sinclair said.

Microsoft is collaborating with Siemens to develop applications that integrate telephony services.

IM is growing at record rates, according to Sinclair. The worldwide market is currently about 200 million users and is expected to grow to 500 million by 2006, he said. Enterprise IM users will grow from about five per cent to 70 per cent over that period.