I can’t believe that VoiceCon is already here again.  It seems like yesterday that Gurdeep Singh Pall was on stage encouraging people to compare the relative value of a $300 IP PBX phone that lets people make phone calls from their desks, and a $300 laptop that provides those same people with voice, video, instant messaging, presence, and conferencing nearly anyplace with Internet connectivity. 

On the other hand, it may seem like another life to those many customers that adopted Office Communications Server and transformed both how and where their people work.   We often highlight customer successes, and I particularly like Dimension Data’s story.  Dimension Data wanted to change their culture, and help people communicate using tools other than the telephone and the business trip.  They chose Office Communications Server after testing and piloting offerings from multiple vendors.   What were the results?  49% reduction in travel costs.  Lower conferencing costs.  Enriched communications.  Better work-life balance.  Similar results are reflected in other case studies. 

There has been lots of Microsoft and partner news as well.  In April, we announced the availability of SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Office Communications Online in 19 countries.   In May, HP and Microsoft announced a strategic initiative to deliver end to end communications and collaboration.  In October, we released XMPP capability and simplified our connectivity to public internet messaging services such as AOL and Windows Live.  One thing we didn’t mention in the related PressPass announcement was that, at that time, Microsoft was federated with roughly 1000 organizations, and our customers with uncounted others.   Our federation capability was first released in 2004, and allows encrypted voice, video, IM, presence and application content to be carried in real time over the Internet between different organizations.

We publicly unveiled SharePoint 2010 at the SharePoint Conference (SPC) in October, and followed that with the launch of Exchange 2010 at TechEd Europe in November.  The virtual launch experience is fantastic, the reviews have been great, and customers worldwide are taking advantage of the new capabilities.  In fact, Julia White, Director of Exchange Product Management, used a number of customer examples in her New Year’s Top Ten list.  It’s an excellent post, and capped an exciting year.

Back to the present.  At VoiceCon next week, we’ll have a few familiar elements, and at least one that is out of the ordinary.  First, the familiar.  We have a spot on the show floor and a separate area where we can meet privately with customers, and, of course, Gurdeep will present a keynote on Wednesday.  His keynote is always a highlight of the show for me.

Another highlight for us this year is Allan Sulkin’s annual IP PBX RFP session.  Why would Microsoft participate in an IP PBX session when Office Communications Server offers much more than voice?  Simply put, we wanted to make it easy for telephony and unified communications professionals to compare our voice capabilities to the solutions they’ve traditionally purchased.  We provided a full written response to the RFP based on Microsoft software plus partner infrastructure, endpoints, and services, and I will personally participate on Allan’s vendor panel.  Come to Allan’s session if you’re at VoiceCon, or visit the Communications Server web page to download our response once the show is over.

In addition, we’re participating in the UC Executive Forum and the Communications Architecture plenary sessions on Monday and several breakouts throughout the week.  My colleague, Jamie Stark, will join the “Comparing UC Options:  Who’s Offering What?” and the “Marrying Social Networking and Enterprise Communications” sessions, and our colleague Albert Kooiman will present in “Deep Dive – Implementation Options:   Unified Communications”, “How Much Voice Mail do you really need?”, and “Presence:   Preferences and Rules Drive Communications Effectiveness.” 

An open question is whether we’ll be able to address a challenge that’s been growing since we released the first version of Office Communications Server in 2007.  During the last three years, literally thousands of customers have deployed our product and, as a result, many have PBX and IP PBX phones they no longer need.  What can they do with all those phones?  Some are sold on the gray market and re-used, which is environmentally friendly and greatly improves the PBX phone purchase economics for the buyer.  But we aren’t sure if demand can keep up with supply.  For this reason, we tried to find an alternate use for a few of the phones displaced by Office Communications Server deployments.  I feel pretty good about where we landed. 

Come visit us on the VoiceCon floor from March 22 through March 25 and see for yourself.

BJ Haberkorn

Senior Product Manager, Communications Server