Blogger: Mike Gotta
What's the significance of this announcement?
There was some signaling at the recent UC launch event in October that Microsoft’s next move would occur in the development area re: building UC-enable business and productivity applications. The announcement is significant in the sense that often times applications help build the business case for infrastructure upgrades and deployment. In this case, if IT organizations can see how to build UC-specific applications, or augment existing applications through UC-related services, then the business case for adopting/migrating/deploying products like Office Communications Server (OCS) becomes more comprehensive. By delivering an application scenario around its UC platform, Microsoft alleviates some of the delays that occur when infrastructure upgrades lack an identifiable business solution. That said, there are a lot of different combinations of API's in this announcement – to some extent this reflects some lack of maturity and cohesiveness around the development model for Microsoft’s UC platform. In some ways, the API’s reflect a mashup of sorts due to multiple products being packaged together into a “platform” that is not entirely normalized. While there are a lot of API's here (arguably, an abundance of riches), application developers are not system engineers and simplification wins out over complexity. There will likely be some initial confusion on the various different approaches and techniques programmers can adopt to deliver UC-based systems. I would expect Microsoft over time to raise the abstraction layer up a notch and be more consistent with the different ways applications can be built with the various toolkits.
What does it bring to developers? See above – plus – this leverages the experience (e.g., .NET) developers already have with Microsoft tools (e.g., leverage UC plug-ins for Visual Studio).
How credible is Microsoft's position in the unified communications space?
Very credible but it has different areas of competency that are at different levels of maturity. Microsoft’s core strengths are in the real-time collaboration re: IM, presence, web conferencing. They are rapidly moving into the area traditionally dominated by communication vendors – VoIP/IP Telephony, audio/video conferencing. But right now, I believe most organizations are going to deploy OCS and “get stable” around the real-time collaboration capabilities, then move to VoIP and integration with existing communication vendors as driven by business requirements. I don’t see anyone ripping out their existing IP-PBX infrastructure in the short run. I do expect more rapid adoption of Round Table however given its price point, form factor and integration with Live Meeting. But make no mistake, Microsoft is in the UC game for the long run and fully intends to dominate it from a platform perspective - that includes mobile and speech as a standard application interaction model.
Who is the typical "developer" they're targeting for this stuff?
Different segments – Microsoft wants to make it easy for the average developer to UC-enable productivity applications, deliver deeper, more complex UC-centric systems and extend the modality of applications with speech interfaces – so I really think it is across the board – from the historical “VB”-like developer to the IT Pro who might be developing at a core infrastructure level.
Microsoft Introduces Unified Communications Tools for Developers
Q&A: Kirt Debique, general manager for Microsoft’s Office Communications Platform & Solutions Group, discusses how a new Unified Communications Developer Portal will provide enterprise developers with secure and reliable tools for building applications.
Redmond, Wash., Nov. 30, 2007 – In October, Microsoft launched the next generation of its unified communications products, including Office Communications Server 2007 (OCS 2007) and Office Communicator 2007. To further support the company’s software-based approach to business communications, the company today unveiled the Unified Communications Developer Portal on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). The portal includes a number of resources, including new software developer kits (SDKs) and application programming interfaces (APIs), to help developers build compelling applications on Microsoft’s unified communications platform.
PressPass spoke to Kirt Debique, general manager for the Office Communications Platform & Solutions Group, about how these resources will help enterprise developers build applications on Microsoft’s unified communications platform.
PressPass: Why is Microsoft making these tools available to developers?
Debique: We’re a platform company, and that philosophy is an especially powerful differentiator in the unified communications space. For example, Exchange Server 2007 is a foundational component in our unified communications solution, and the Exchange Server Developer Center has proven to us how important it is to have one place to go to for developers to create a vibrant community. Following the launch of OCS 2007, we want to provide developers with the tools to build communications solutions on our OCS platform. We strongly believe that it will be developers that will ignite the next generation of innovation for our customers.