Microsoft Gets Into Real Time

Real-time communication is the way forward for the internet, if Microsoft's to be believed. The software giant is to launch new instant messaging, web conferencing and internet telephony software for office workers.

Three new products are to be debuted over the next few months as part of an expansion of the Microsoft Office suite. At a news conference yesterday, Bill Gates said it was part of Microsoft's emphasis on "real-time collaboration". "You could say it's one of the big frontiers that Office is moving ahead on," he said.

AP reports the software will include some updates to products that have been available for several years - presumably including Microsoft's Netmeeting software. It's a growing market, with software such as Skype already recording growing use.

Meanwhile, AOL is to launch its own net-based phone service. To be up and running within the month, the system is expected to work along with its instant messaging service - another nod towards the success of Skype. Customers can continue to use traditional phones, but plug them into broadband adapters instead of straight into the wall to use the service.

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