With the recent launch of Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft has taken a big step into the unified communications market. And as the years of hype around Office Communications Server 2007 show, when Microsoft launches a product, everyone wants to hear about it. But is OCS a winner? We're not so sure.

This week's ceremony in San Francisco, which will be keynoted by outgoing chief software architect Bill Gates, will feature dozens of announcements by telecom vendor partners. we'll also have to sit through testimonies from 155 companies that have beta-tested Office Communications Server 2007.

True to its Type-A nature, Microsoft has been preparing five years for today's launch, according to Mike Gotta, an analyst at the Burton Group, who wrote in his blog that it's "one of the most faultlessly executed multiyear strategies that I have seen from a vendor in some time".

OCS, the successor to Live Communications Server 2005, adds key features such as internet telephony and web conferencing. Some say that on technical merits alone, those changes don't justify the attention Office Communications Server is getting.

Office Communications Server is a mere "refresh and rebrand" of Live Communications Server 2005, said Nora Freedman, an analyst at IDC.

"The importance of this news is mainly that it's Microsoft," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research in Boston.

Microsoft being Microsoft, many are pinning their hopes on Office Communications Server to kick-start the unified communications market into gear - something even formidable names such as Cisco, Nortel and others have yet failed to do.

That will help "all boats rise (even those that are delivering competitive alternatives)", Gotta said.

Yet, various concerns - some legitimate, some pure fear, uncertainty and doubt from Microsoft's competition - remain. Over the following pages we've offered some six examples.

  1. Should I entrust my telephone system to a software vendor?
  2. Can I really expect some Microsoft software running on a Windows box to be as reliable as a PBX?
  3. If I'm not getting rid of my PBXes for a while, why go to Office Communications Server 2007 at all?
  4. Do I even really need unified communications?
  5. Well, I AM interested in unified communications. But Office Communications Server 2007 seems to lack features we need
  6. Why go to OCS if we're not a Microsoft shop?

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