When it comes to the power of presence in applications, "we're just scratching the surface," Ed Simnett, senior product manager for the Real-Time Collaboration Group at Microsoft, told InstantMessagingPlanet.com.
"Presence is becoming a normal part of information workers bag of tricks," Simnett said. "We're seeing an increasing interest from customers in having presence part of other applications."
"With Live Communications Server, we are providing an extensible platform with tools that help partners more easily incorporate real-time collaboration into their line-of-business applications," said Zig Serafin, general manager for the Real-Time Collaboration Group at Microsoft, in a statement. "Thanks to the federation capabilities of Live Communications Server, partners can build solutions that work securely across networks and connect up to public IM services."
Today's announcement focuses on three areas, according to Simnett:
Presence Controls (formerly called Real-Time Collaboration Presence Toolkit) are designed to let Microsoft Visual Studio developers insert presence icons into applications. Also, the context menu within the icons provides integration with Microsoft Office Communicator 2005, and is meant to allow users in the application to launch Communicator's IM conversation or telephone call window. Simnett said that by using presence in this manner, business can avoid "productivity loss by requests going to people not available."
Role Agent Sample shows developers a way to assign a role name such as "customer service representative," to a group of people to create an entity that represents the presence of any individual currently in that role. Simnett said you could, for example, have a support request go to all members in that role. The first person to reply would then take control of the communication. Or you could prioritize it so that if person A isn't available, the request goes to person B and so on down the line.
The Custom Alerting Sample, which Simnett said will be available in a few weeks, shows how to build an application that allows team members to determine whether other team members are online and then send them an instant notification. The application is integrated with Active Directory service and Live Communications Server.
"I call them the cookie cutter tools," said Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox. "Microsoft has provided a pretty easy way for software developers or customers to add presence to their applications." (Jupiter Research and internetnews.com are owned by the same corporation.)
Software providers that have already added those capabilities to their products include BrightWork, K2.net, Meridio, OSIsoft, Siebel Systems and Singularity.
BrightWork Tasker Manager, for example, uses presence to help government customers to find, locate and communicate with the people who can best address a question or business problem in a timely manner. Integrated with Live Communications Server, it routes work to users who are available to perform the next step, based on their presence status.
Siebel Collaboration 7.8 integrates with Windows SharePoint Services and Live Communications Server 2005, and is designed to allow users to capture, share and access real-time business information to better manage, track and service customers and prospects.
While corporate presence and messaging haven't hit the mainstream yet, according to Wilcox, it's an emerging trend. "There are a lot of scenarios where presence makes sense, especially in customer service scenarios," Wilcox said.
While a lot of companies don't have the Microsoft server infrastructure in place to take advantage of these messaging tools, Wilcox said that could change in 18 months. "Microsoft is definitely at the front end this wave," he said, "but it's by no means the only company that's there."