Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In what I would characterise a landmark event for communications, Microsoft and Norwegian telco Telenor teamed to launch the VoIP platform in Oslo today (Norwegian). Demonstrating the merger of software-powered telephony with device/network powered telephony I sensed a major shift -- blurring the lines between traditional communication and collaboration --but also witnessing another example of the consumerisation of IT (i.e. introducing products from the consumer market, into the enterprise).

The two case-study presentations were also impressive; but then Microsoft are very good at recruiting early adopters to demonstrate production-grade implementations. The case studies were from Norway's largest company StatoilHydro (collaboration between land and sea/rig) and one of Northern Europe's most advanced hospitals St. Olav in Trondheim (the VoIP platform as the foundation for communication).

Again, Microsoft showed their willingness to develop hardware, even though it may only be to demonstrate the power of the software platform. The Roundtable device is a simple device with a USB-connected 360-degree camera with voice-detection allowing for automatically zooming to the speaker. The quality of the picture could have been better but anyway, it brings an audio/video dimension to VoIP in the enterprise. And in these climate-conscious days, it could help reduce travel.

Microsoft's VoIP platform (or Unified Communications as it is called) seems poised to be the "web operating system" for developing large scale mobile applications with deep integration of communication and presence. Judging by the partners present and those announced, it looks like a new wave of solutions from ISVs. The video-conferencing sector (like Tandberg) will get a boost from this launch even though I think it is difficult to say if the impact will be positve (i.e. people develop a sense for video conferencing and look for better solutions) or negative (i.e. put off buying expensive video-conferencing equipment).

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