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Microsoft unveils Greenwich beta

Microsoft will today release a beta version of its real-time communications server software technology, codenamed Greenwich.

Greenwich, which is due for commercial release in mid-2003, represents the software giant's push for presence-based applications, which show when users are online and available to communicate. 

Greenwich claims to offer companies instant messaging functionality that includes data collaboration, PC-to-PC voice and video and integration with the company's MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises service. The Connect service provides authentication and management for business-to-consumer instant messaging.

Although presence is most commonly associated with IM, Microsoft predicted that it would soon be the basis for enhanced communications across a variety of enterprise applications, networks and devices.

The technology will offer presence integration with business applications and shared team sites, said Ed Simnett, lead project manager of Microsoft's Real Time Collaboration business unit.

Microsoft product unit manager David Gurle touted the capability of presence to create a "human-to-human web" at the Instant Messaging Planet conference in Boston last month.

Many companies have been fighting to stamp out the rash of consumer IM products that have inundated their networks, and replace them with secure enterprise-class versions.

Greenwich exploits the company's MSN Messenger client and offers security, including message encryption, and logging of conversations for reference and regulatory compliance. It also offers multiparty chat capabilities, whiteboarding and PC-to-phone calls, Simnett claimed.

A host of other providers including rivals Yahoo! and America Online have entered the corporate IM market, but Microsoft has taken a different tack on business IM with the aim of integrating it with its other products.

Simnett said Office 2003 and upcoming versions of Outlook will incorporate Greenwich, and Windows Server 2003 will be the operating system underlying the real-time collaboration technology.

Although the Greenwich beta will be widely released today, some large Microsoft clients, such as Reuters Group, have already been testing the software. According to Simnett, feedback has been positive.

"Our clients like having this exciting functionality available through familiar tools."

Pricing for Greenwich has yet to be revealed.


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