Microsoft Unified Communications launch keynote

I’m going to liveblog the Bill Gates/Jeff Raikes keynote when it starts in about an hour; before then, I have a press briefing with some folks from Microsoft’s PR agency. I’ll update this post when I start liveblogging.

0850: Springsteen’s “Radio Nowhere” is playing. Good song; odd choice. Lots of press analyst folks, including Ephraim Schwartz.

0855: Barry University case study video. They’re using OCS conferencing to let students attend conferences, replay lectures, etc. They’re also using Live Meeting with RoundTable, which is made of win. Followed by funny “VoIP as you are” commercial, followed by Western Digital case study video, emphasizing value of ad-hoc conferencing and ease of configuring/re-configuring.

0858: Shaw Group case study video, plus another commercial, then Tayside Fire and Rescue case study. The fire & rescue folks love presence, and they’re rolling out VoIP to speed communications. Gibson Guitar video is next, with background music by Luna Halo (sadly, there’s no actual Halo present.)

0905: Fog machine is cranking up, and the case study videos and commercials are replaying.

0918: cool intro video showing manufacturing of a custom MS UC guitar at the Gibson factory, now being played on stage by some guy I don’t recognize.

0920: Bill Gates on stage. “What’s this all about? Well, Microsoft’s all about the magic of software, letting people be more productive and more creative. Today’s announcement is all about taking the magic of software and applying it to phone calls.” “Flexibility… to do new things isn’t there in that structure [PBX structure, he means]”

What factors drive this forward? “Magic of Moore’s law” means “hardware is not holding us back at all– you’ve seen the explosion of audio and video being an essential part of experiencing the Internet.” Digitization of economy. Advances in software.Changes in bandwidth, mobility, and form factor.

Every 10 years or so, how we think of computers and communication changes– from Altair (“the computer that got me to drop out of school”) to IBM PC to laptop to tablet. Similar evolution of phones and mobile devices. Key players in mobile devices have been folks that are great at doing software, not just hardware. In contrast to great evolution in mobile devices, consider the phone you have in your offices. They look pretty much the same. Small display, “lots of buttons– you look at them and say ‘I wonder who uses those buttons?'” Frozen; nothing third parties can do to extend or improve.

Survey: ” in 3 people have successfully transferred a phone call.” (lots of laughter at this one!) “In the PC world, with things like Exchange and Active Directory… the directory is an important tool in the company and has become mainstream, but the PBX has stood by itself.”

“n the older world, everything came in a vertically integrated communications stack.”– hardware, PBX, software all came from one company. “That model worked fine because the pieces worked together.. but it meant that once you picked a PBX partner that was it. Even if they didn’t make much money on the initial sale” ongoing support was costly. “For Microsoft, just to set up a new office with a phone was about $700 and required a lead time of a week.” (wow! what kind of PBX was that? I don’t want one.) How are we changing away from a vertical model? “We’ve seen this before… it’s just like the computer industry before the personal computer came along.” Change agents were MS, Intel, and third parties that made it a horizontal market.

Four layers: phones and devices, interoperable apps (based on the directory), open communications software platform, and industry-standard IT architecture. Multiple vendors on each levels. “As you go down the path, at every step there’s opportunities for increased productivity and cost savings.”

“This shift will be as profound as the shift from typewriters to word processors… which we simply take for granted. Ten years from now, when people think about telephony, when you see a movie that has a desktop phone you’ll think ‘wow, we used to have those.'”

“We’re excited that applications companies, services companies, companies that do great hardware are all coming in here.”

“When we think about the cost savings here, you might ask ‘how does this add up?'” Productivity benefit; flexibility of conferencing reduces travel; business process where you’re collaborating becomes more effective. (this wasn’t as much punch as I was expecting– seemed a little ad-libbed)

0940: Forester looked at all these savings and found “over 500% ROI over three years”. Part of the reason “that’s so high is that you’re leveraging investments you’ve already made”. I mentioned some of the innovations earlier. A good example, both in hardware and software, is RoundTable. Small, light device (it is, but he’s not shwoing the dial pad or satellite mics) Costs $3000. Active speaker switching “does a very precise job”. Intros Virgin Megastores case study video on RoundTable. Rich media playback, active speaker switching, doc sharing. (all of this uses the Live Meeting console, which works the same way both for Live Meeting and OCS conferencing) This is an area where we’ve been investing for a number of years… it’s a big bet that we’ve made but we feel great about it.” Person who’s led that investment and driven the business is Jeff Raikes.

0945: Jeff Raikes on stage. Fifteen months ago, we were here to show our roadmap. Now we’re excited to be back to show our products. Announcing the launch of OCS 2007, Office Communicator 2007, a major update to Exchange 2007, Live Meeting, and RoundTable. “These technologies provide the backbone of software-powered communications… it’s a big R&D bet for Microsoft.”

“The era of dialing blind, the era of phone tag, the era of voice mail jail… that era ends today.”

Identity and presence are at the core. “Think of how many phone numbers you have… phone numbers are an artifact of a technological limitation. I don’t want to get in touch with your phone number, I want to get in touch with you.”

MS research: average information worker spends 37 minutes/week (~ 30 hrs/year) in voice mail jail or playing phone tag. It’s not just the lost time that’s important, it’s what it means in the context of the business.

0951: Eric Swift onstage for demo. Notional sales rep in Chicago wants to check messages to see what he can work on on the way home. Dons headset and calls Outlook Voice Access while Outlook is open on screen. OVA reads new message, then he switches to voice mail. “Let me hear my voice mail”, then playback of voice mail message requesting critical response. “Calendar for today” followed by “clear my calendar” to free time. (Some recognition problems, not uncommon in auditoriums with lots of background noise– I’ve definitely had varying results in large rooms.) Demo of Outlook Mobile: type-ahead search, plus search of Exchange server catalog. Switch to Communicator Mobile to check presence status. Click-to-call on mobile device to place voice call to co-workers mobile phone.Traffic is congested downtown (should’ve used Windows Live Search). Goes to work from home, in his backyard with barbecue pit ready to go.

1000: shows creating an IM session from a mail, with the subject line preserved, plus one-click access to item used to start conversation. Then shows escalation directly to voice call. Drag a new participant into the voice call to add them and turn it in to a conference. (audience applauds) “When I deal with vendors I like to look them in the eye”, so let’s escalate to video.

1005: attending a regularly scheduled Live Meeting from the cof
fee shop.RoundTable in a meeting room, plus two remote attendees. (Panorama view in Live Meeting console is very cool) show integration from within Word– person names have a presence jellybean, and you can click-to-call. (applause)

1010: Jeff Raikes back on stage. “not something just for the boardroom or the elite… two orders of magnitude from other solutions. It opens up all of that value for a great communications experience.” Harris Interactive/MS study: average information worker gets up to 100 messages a day in 7 different places, up 30% in 18-24 months.SharePoint already has great integration. Dynamics CRM is adding it (that’s news to me; I wonder if it’s a formal announcement). 150+ customers using OCS/UC in production, 25-30% cost savings reported by them. “Our goal is 50% cost reduction within 3 years.” “As of last week, all of Intel– all 104,000 people– are using OCS and Office Communicator.”

1020: Customer talk: Etienne de Verdelhan, CIO of L’Occitane en Provence, followed by customer video.

1030: Slide with hundreds of logos. “For every dollar of revenue Microsoft makes, we expect our partners to make $3.” “To underscore that we have more than 50 partners here announcing new products or services.”   Nortel, Ericsson, and Mitel are announcing their roadmaps today.

“Nortel has introduced a fully software-based roadmap and plans to build software applications that enhance OCS.” “Ericsson has announced a mobility server that will be built on the VoIP call management layer.” “Mitel has announced plans for a server that will be built around OCS and help to meet specialized needs in telephony, in particular in small and medium businesses and vertical markets.”

SAP is building presence and click-to-communicate into Duet, combining SAP data with rich presence, all available within Office application suite.

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