I am happy to tell you that we opened a private beta of our new version of Office Communications Server 2007, to 2,500 companies. What’s special about this version is that it has a lot of the VoIP capabilities built in. The coolest thing I have experienced as an early tester is the freedom to make VoIP and video calls no matter where I am without going through the trouble of VPN.
Inside Microsoft, we have this concept called “dogfood”. A “dogfood” user is a user who uses a new product before it is released. In order to ensure that the users truly eat the VoIP “dogfood”, we take their PBX desktop phone away. I have been one of the “dogfood” users for the past few months. All my incoming and outgoing calls are done over VoIP, and I am loving it.
I love it to a large extent because of the newfound freedom of taking and making calls on my laptop wherever I have an internet connection. I have been taking calls in conference rooms, in my home and in hotel rooms, and I have seen people making calls to me from airports, in airplanes, and other places. I could “see” them because they could add video to the call with the click of a button too. People calling my office number from a phone didn’t even know I was not in my office. I have also joined many multiparty conferences from home and hotel rooms with full audio, video, and application sharing. All of this without the trouble of VPN. We used to have this kind of freedom only with email and IM. Now it has been extended to audio, video, and data sharing as well. Do you want to schedule a audio/video conference so your customers can join from their computer? No problem. They can join a conference hosted in your network without VPN too!
There are some very interesting technologies behind this new degree of freedom. One of them is the ICE protocol being developed in IETF. Microsoft is a early adopter of that technology and built security and manageability around it for enterprise deployments. The other, probably most fundamental, is the ability to deliver good audio experience over the public Internet and on all kinds of laptops. A lot of late nights went into the tuning of advanced audio processing in OC to deliver good quality under the loss and jitter of the Internet, and the tuning of acoustic echo cancellation on these laptops. It is the same audio technology that has been serving MSN Messenger 7.5 and 8.0 customers for billions of minutes of PC to PC VoIP calls. I am very glad that we can offer all these to our testers to try it out now with this beta. I look forward to knowing how they like it, and we can work together to improve it further.
- Mu Han