Microsoft Ties ‘Greenwich’ IM Server to Office

A little over a month after Microsoft dished up the official designation of its “Greenwich” Real-Time Communications Server, the software titan Tuesday altered the branding to tie it more closely with its Office System line of products.

Microsoft said its Microsoft Real-Time Communications Server (RTC Server) 2003 Standard Edition will now be known as the Microsoft Office RTC Server 2003.

“People are rapidly adopting text instant messaging for day-to-day business use, but are currently limited to discrete consumer-oriented services,” said Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of the Real-Time Collaboration Business Unit at Microsoft. “With RTC Server deployed with other Microsoft Office System products, such as Outlook 2003 or SharePoint Portal Server 2003, information workers will be able to send instant messages to colleagues from within the productivity applications they use every day.”

Still slated for release in third quarter 2003, RTC Server is intended to provide secure, enterprise instant messaging and presence — the ability to detect whether a user is online and available. It is also geared to be a platform for emerging communications technologies: Internet telephony, application sharing, and video conferencing.

The RTC Server is built on the Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP, a technology designed to foster communication streams in a variety of different modes, ranging from instant messaging to VoIP.

When RTC Server ships, Microsoft plans to offer APIs for syndicating presence information as a free add-on for Windows Server 2003, allowing ISVs and enterprises to embed RTC Server-based presence in Web pages and to create new applications based on the technology.

But Tuesday’s decision to change the product’s moniker is an indicator that Microsoft intends to play up its ties to Office. The company noted that RTC Server’s presence capabilities will allow a user who receives an email in Outlook 2003 to see whether the sender is online and available. If so, the user will be able to initiate an instant messaging conversation from within Outlook. Microsoft is also pointing to the power of integrating its Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 with RTC Server, allowing information workers working in a portal to see the presence of teammates and initiate instant collaboration sessions in the portal environment.

Together, SharePoint Portal Server, SharePoint Services and RTC Server will provide site-based collaboration that’s tied into Office 2003’s core applications — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook — while also offering up embedded IM and alerting.

A user can register peers’ IM handles in the Outlook Contact List, and special field in Word, Excel, and the other applications will reflect colleagues’ availability, with each application capable of spawning an IM session.

The company said it has not yet determined licensing and pricing for RTC Server.