Microsoft demonstrates Office Communicator 14

Microsoft demonstrated the future version of Office Communicator at Tech-Ed, New Orleans today.

Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Unified Communications Group, took the stage at Tech-Ed on Monday and explained the release is very big for Microsoft. "Communicator 14 is all about communication and collaboration and of course enterprise voice." Singh Pall demonstrated several new features including activity feeds, contact card changes and 720p HD webcam video over Communicator. Office Communications Server is used at large businesses and corporations for employee internal instant messaging. It's the business version of Microsoft's popular Windows Live Messenger. New improvements include:

  • Location services integration - users location can be auto detected from the subnet where the user is wired or the nearest wireless access point. Users can also set custom locations.
  • Activity feeds - Users can update their status and have the status displayed in the contact list.
  • Dial Pad - Option to use dial pad interface for calls. Users can dial by name or click to call others from their contact lists. Voicemail messages are also available from the dialing tab.
  • Voice Mail improvements - Voice mail is now recorded and transcribed to text in real time.
  • Device Selection - Users can select their audio device directly from the Microsoft Communicator interface
  • Simultaneous Ring - Users can forward inbound calls to specific numbers, straight to voice mail or ring at multiple numbers simultaneously.
  • Contextual calls in real time - Users can enter a subject immedialy before placing a call allowing recipients to see the call subject
  • Contact card changes- Newly designed contact card with just the basics similar to Outlook 2010 and an extended card to display full information from Active Directory.

Microsoft confirmed Office Communications Server (OCS) has grown by double digits every year for the last three years and is one of the fastest growing servers at Microsoft. Today, more than 70% of the Fortune 100 companies are using OCS internally.

Microsoft did not confirm exactly when Office Communications Server "14" will be available apart from that it will be released "later this year".

Image Credits: Long Zheng (Flickr)

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32 Comments

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ObiWanToby said,
Communicator replacing WLM would be wonderful.

Yes, that'd be awesome. The GUI is much better than WLM. Main problem : Lots of people love the "social" things nowadays...

dave164 said,
Yeah Office Communicator is awesome, just simple and easy to use.

I haven't used this yet. Is it like an evolution of NetMeeting? I've used NetMeeting.

Bassem said,
Does anyone else think that this actually looks better than WLM?
MUCH better, it actually looks like a Windows application...wow

I always hated "skinned" applications

I actually like the Mac version of it that came with Office '11 Beta 3. Very similar to Messenger for Mac in appearance but good to see.

Honestly Microsoft Communicator seems to be solutions to problems that don't exist, at least not in a "realistic" work environment. My company (one of the top 3 banks) is in the middle of a transition from IBM Lotus Sametime (bloated, but does almost exactly what we need it to do) to Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2. Compared to Sametime, OCS 2007 is seriously lacking in features.

It has many useless telephony features that are never used, the interface is completely non-standard and you can barely customize it! It seems like an afterthought meant to simply get a foot in the corporate IM world; the only benefit I see with it is how well it integrates with Outlook (automatically setting you as away/dnd while in a meeting, for instance). The lack of being able to cut/paste screenshots and images directly in the chat is also a major missing feature.

This new version seems like more of the same, while not addressing the overall lack of features and customization. Video chat is nice, but I've never felt a need (outside of a large group v. large group meeting) to have video chat; one on one a phone call works much better.

As much as I dislike Sametime (being built on Java and cross platform, it's a very bloated and rather slow application) - it gets the job done and does everything we needed. Unfortunately we've been slowly migrating to an entirely Microsoft shop, so OCS 14 is probably in the future (and OCS 2007 is here to stay).

Fortunately there's an OCS plugin for Pidgin, so all is not lost.

Coming from a business that uses the entire unified communications platform (IM, Phone, ACD system, etc.) these features are not useless. The PC replaces the phone in all cases, and the phone number is not tied to a certain jack. An employee can take their laptop anywhere and still receive calls, or even log onto a web interface and make/receive calls. It also helps telecommuting immensely, and a lot of our employees don't need offices anymore.

In short, Microsoft provides a great set of tools in OCS, it is just up to the business to implement them to take advantage of a them.

Completely agree with bdattilo, the features are not useless. Communicator and OCS replaces your standard desk phone with a VoIP . OCS does provides an advanced telephony, instant messaging, presence and conferencing solution that saves huge amounts of money in the long run.

Plus this is a business application not a home application why should it be customizable!.

I like it. Problem i see is the pictures. I know for sure I am going to have a lot of blanks. Hoepfully you can turn that off.

Grex said,
I like it. Problem i see is the pictures. I know for sure I am going to have a lot of blanks. Hoepfully you can turn that off.

You mean your company doesnt pour money into pictures of every employee? *gasp* I thought all companies did this! *lol*.. always love how communication systems always have to have the persons picture now days.... where I work people refuse to have their picture anywhere it seems like....

A large amount of companies (especially large) have all their employees photoed. The reason being is some of these companies put employees pictures on their personal ID Badge.

neufuse said,

You mean your company doesnt pour money into pictures of every employee? *gasp*

What money? Most new laptops have a webcam. A digital photo is part of the new hire process. It adds as much cost as asking people to type their name but heck, half of my work contacts can't be bothered to do that. Thank goodness for WLM "Nickname" feature.

Most amusing business IM name I've seen so far was a transportation executive with the username "transex".

Pam14160 said,
A large amount of companies (especially large) have all their employees photoed. The reason being is some of these companies put employees pictures on their personal ID Badge.

Was about to say the same myself.

Personally, I find refusing your picture to be taken to be something that only hurts yourself. Being shy or anti-social in the work place isn't exactly a great impression to make on others. Besides, it's good for people to be able to match your name with your face. Last thing you want is for people to blank out when they see you. "Heyyy... pal!"

Pam14160 said,
A large amount of companies (especially large) have all their employees photoed. The reason being is some of these companies put employees pictures on their personal ID Badge.

yes our company does this but they sure do not take the time to port all the pictures to Exchange or for the matter OC.

I'm just gonna comment without thinking. They should MERGE WLM and Communicator. WLM needs serious revamping.

Ishanx said,
I'm just gonna comment without thinking. They should MERGE WLM and Communicator. WLM needs serious revamping.

Unfortunately your greatly amazing idea will probably never happen.

Ishanx said,
I'm just gonna comment without thinking. They should MERGE WLM and Communicator. WLM needs serious revamping.

...except that MS products are task based and the set of tasks you do at work and at home are completely different. If you're using WLM for work then I can understand a perception that some of the features are unnecessary and others may be missing. That's to be expected when you're using the wrong tool for the job.

Neb Okla said,
...except that MS products are task based and the set of tasks you do at work and at home are completely different. If you're using WLM for work then I can understand a perception that some of the features are unnecessary and others may be missing. That's to be expected when you're using the wrong tool for the job.

+1. As someone who uses each in it's appropriate environment, I don't see merging them as a viable option. They really do serve two different functions.

vaximily said,

+1. As someone who uses each in it's appropriate environment, I don't see merging them as a viable option. They really do serve two different functions.

But they could at least make the consumer version look like that, because I sure as heck know what one I would rather use!

iamwhoiam said,

That has NOTHING to do with WLM Wave 14.

Sorry, I thought folks were referring to Live Meeting. My bad - please ignore the posts.