Office Communications Server Beta Available

Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator client released to public betas.

Microsoft has released public betas of Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 and Office Communicator client, two main components of the company's new enterprise communications and collaboration platform.

OCS 2007 is the next incarnation of Microsoft's Live Communications Server 2005, offering converged communications based on its software-based VoIP platform and improved systems management. It's designed to work in conjunction with Microsoft's Exchange Server.

Targeted at those within organizations who manage telecommunications, collaboration and messaging, OCS is significant to developers as well because more applications require embedded communications functionality, suggests Albert Kooiman, Microsoft senior product manager for Unified Communications Extensibility. "Communications is turning into something in software you can act on, whereas in the past, communication turned out to be not much more than plumbing," he says. "With the convergence of voice and data, media and data, all of a sudden a lot of new scenarios are available."

Microsoft is already placing significant emphasis on OCS 2007. Jeff Raikes, president of the company's business division, has called it the most important communication technology release since Outlook 1997.

New features in OCS 2007 offer the ability to make voice calls from within Office apps such as Outlook by clicking on a person's name. Also, support for the Interactive Connectivity Establishment protocols will allow users working on the road to securely access their home-office systems without the need for a VPN.

Microsoft has created a range of tools for developers to create OCS 2007 apps. (All work as Visual Studio plug-ins.)

"For the drag-and-drop developer, we've created tools based on [Windows Workflow Foundation]," Kooiman says. "On the lowest levels of the APIs, we've got a managed API, there you can write C# or whatever you want. But at every little step, you can change all those classes."

Right now, the company is attempting to address concerns from developers who prefer mid-level tools. "We're near the end [of the development process]," he says. "We've incorporated a lot of feedback. It turned out that a lot of people didn't want the lowest level but didn't want the higher level, either. That middle level of the APIs, that's what we're most working on."

Kooiman says OCS is on track for a mid-summer release, and the company plans to release frequent updates: "Every three to six months you can expect a drop from our site."

About the Author

Chris Kanaracus is the news editor for Redmond Developer News.

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