Microsoft Testers Tapped for 'Vienna' Communications Server

Microsoft is publicizing the opening of a beta program for Office Live Communications Server 2005 (LCS 2005). Formerly known by the code-name "Vienna," Live Communications Server 2005 steps up Redmond's support for real-time communications in the fiercely competitive market for those services.

With the 2005 release of LCS, presence awareness is federated between organizations, and presence and instant messaging capabilities are extended outside of the corporate network. According to Microsoft, outside access does not require the establishment of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and is more secure than traditional secured socket access due to advanced user authentication.

Securing instant messaging has become top priority for businesses. The Radicati Group reports that, "31% of corporations that have not deployed instant messaging have not done so due to security concerns, followed by 27% who are skeptical of IM's added value."

Additional enhancements in LCS 2005 include improvements to the server's tiered architecture intended to deliver the promised benefits of better reliability, availability and scalability. New management options and administrative tools have been added into the software as well.

The current Office Live Communication Server 2003 release was formerly developed under the code-name "Greenwich." LCS 2003 provided presence-awareness and real-time communications capabilities in a single package. Additionally, Live Meeting 2003 allowed information workers to interact with SharePoint Portals through its application sharing capabilities and integration with the Office 2003 System.

BetaNews first reported on version 2 of Greenwich in October 2002.  Since that time, Microsoft has altered its product roadmap in the face of heightened competition and the software has been officially dubbed LCS 2005.

The Radicati Group's Worldwide IM Users Growth Forecast for 2003 – 2008 reports that instant messaging usage will increase from 490 to 642 million worldwide users in the next year alone.

According to the 2002 roadmap, Greenwich v2 was to provide further integration within Microsoft Office, scheduled multi-party audio and video and data collaboration, as well as extended mobile capabilities. When asked if these features would make it into the new server, a Microsoft spokesperson only said that more information would be released in late June when the beta will reach the hands of testers.

Early plans called for Live Communications Server 2005 to be due out by Q2 of 2004; however the final release of the server has slipped to the end of the year. Presently, Microsoft is accepting nominations for the beta program - a move which may be intended to spark sales of the current 2003 release.

"In the past, Microsoft has used future product announcements as a way of deflecting interest in competing shipping products. Businesses might delay purchase of one product to see what Microsoft will release," noted Joe Wilcox, Senior Analyst with Jupiter Research. "In this instance, Microsoft also is communicating to customers considering Live Communications Server that an important update is soon coming, meaning the company is advancing its product quickly, which could benefit LCS sales today."

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