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Microsoft Unveils Presence Tools for Real-Time Collaboration

Microsoft on Thursday unveiled tools to make it easier to include Instant Message-style presence information from Live Communications Server 2005 in business processes and line-of-business applications.

The move fits inside Microsoft's larger effort to evangelize presence as a technology with much broader enterprise applications than its main current use of allowing employees and partners to use Instant Message clients to chat with each other in real time.

"This is delivering against our integrated communications vision," said Ed Simnett, a product manager in Microsoft's Real-Time Communications Group. "We think we're scratching the surface here."

The specific tools are Presence Controls for Microsoft Office Communicator 2005, a Role Agent Sample for Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 and a Custom Alerting Application Sample for Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005.

The presence controls for Communicator, a.k.a. "Istanbul," Microsoft's latest IM and telephony client, are designed for Visual Studio developers. Using the controls, developers can easily place a presence icon into applications to provide status information of contacts. For example, if approval is necessary from a particular manager, an employee might be able to see within the application whether the manager was available and launch a chat session or initiate a call from within the application.

The capability was available previously as the Real-Time Collaboration Presence Toolkit. "We're always looking to improve these types of capabilities," Simnett said. "We believe this will make things much easier for developers. Using Visual Studio, it's literally drag-and-drop stuff."

The role agent sample code introduces new functionality. "Rather than users having to know who is in a particular role and then pick somebody from a list, the company's able to assign a set of people for a task and the user can then pick that task or that role," Simnett said.

The custom alerting application sample finds a different use for Live Communications Server by leveraging integration with Active Directory. The sample code guides developers in building applications that allow team members to see what other team members are online and send an instant notification to those members.

Several partners have built the new capabilities into their applications. They include BrightWork, K2.net, Meridio, OSIsoft, Siebel Systems and Singularity.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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