Microsoft Maps Out Road to Greenwich

The impression that instant messaging will soon overtake e-mail in frequency has been percolating inside the corridors of Redmond for some time, and according to the Exchange product roadmap, has taken hold. Microsoft is preparing "Greenwich," a server platform for real-time communication, to address the enterprise IM market.

Greenwich is based on the Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP, which is found in Windows XP and currently serves as the basis for Windows Messenger and Passport's directory service.

Microsoft has planned a full set of features for Greenwich that include: presence notification, server side contact lists, VoIP support, roaming settings, integrated logging via SQL database, authentication with encryption, multi-domain support, alerts and notifications, federation support, GPO based policy management, and a set of external APIs for developers. Another key aspect of Greenwich is the move toward instant messaging and collaboration via mobile devices.

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Microsoft initially indicated that Greenwich was simply part of an effort to move capabilities from Exchange to Windows - not a server product. But BetaNews has learned that Greenwich has flowered into two separate phases, with version 1 set to debut shortly after the release of Windows .NET Server 2003 next year.

A second incarnation of the server, referred to internally as "v2," is scheduled to break ground in Q2 of 2004. By this phase of product development, the software giant seeks to establish itself as "the leader in the RTCC space."

Greenwich v2 will provide further integration within Microsoft Office, scheduled multi-party audio and video and data collaboration, and extended mobile capabilities. Currently, Windows and MSN Messenger, as well as NetMeeting are the workable clients for Microsoft's RTCC services. By the time v2 is released, Office 11 and Longhorn -- the next version of Windows -- will assume these roles.

Internal documents suggest Microsoft is seeking to further integrate IM into the operating system with Longhorn. The Longhorn embedded client will serve as the next generation Messenger, and revolve around Greenwich v2. Additional communications services "outside of the firewall" will be hosted by Microsoft and incorporated into Office licensing fees.

Greenwich joins a clustered family of servers ranging from Exchange, Exchange Conferencing Server, and the soon to be released Titanium - the prodigal child of Exchange 2000. Microsoft has announced no packaging or pricing details, but says it is currently beta testing Greenwich with a large, un-named customer.

Lofty goals aside, Microsoft faces stiff competition in the enterprise market. For its part, America Online has begun testing an encrypted service to be known as "Enterprise AIM," but has so far declined to comment on its availability. Internet giant Yahoo has joined forces with VeriSign to produce its own corporate IM, which will be released in the first quarter of next year.

A Microsoft representative was not available for comment at press time.

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