Microsoft Dials into SMB Phone Systems

By Lauren Simonds | Posted March 19, 2007

Using its five-day nationwide Small Business Summit as a backdrop, Microsoft today unveiled new software that the company says is designed to make full-featured phone systems for small businesses easy to use, manage and expand.

The software, called Microsoft Response Point, will run on hardware – a base unit and compatible telephones – currently in development by industry partners Uniden, D-Link and Quanta. Microsoft would not be specific about product availability, saying only that the systems would be launched later this year.

According to Jeff Smith, a senior product manager at Microsoft, the company designed Response Point so that the average person using a PC can setup and configure the phones.

"Response Point differs from traditional phone systems in three ways," says Smith. "It's easy to manage, easy to use and easy to add additional phones when you need them. For example, if you move into a new office, simply unplug your phone, take it to the new office, plug it in, and it works. No specialists needed."

The software runs on a networked PC in the office, and the base unit plugs into the network. Microsoft says Response Point works with, but does not require Microsoft Exchange, and that the system supports both traditional phone calls and VoIP calls. The phone system is aimed at companies with fewer than 50 people. "It's a very attractive, compelling proposition that's focused on the needs of small business," says Smith.

A one-button design radically simplifies ease of use, Smith says. "With one button you can dial anyone in your Outlook contacts, transfer calls or use voice commands." He adds that the software offers the features typically found in a PBX system. A partial list of features includes the following:

  • Phone and service configuration wizards
  • Phone auto discovery
  • One-touch voice commands
  • Virtual Receptionist
  • Built in voicemail
  • Voicemail to e-mail forwarding
  • Incoming call notifications on your PC
  • Microsoft Outlook contact integration
  • Two-click backup and restore

Another point of simplicity, says Smith, is that SMBs can add phones and extension without paying Microsoft additional licensing fees. While Smith says this makes Response Point a much more affordable option than traditional phone systems. While Microsoft hopes you'll talk using its new product, it refused to talk about pricing, so we can't confirm Smith's assertion.

George Cravens, a technical marketing engineer at D-Link, confirms that his company's pricing is not yet set, either. "We're beta testing our system [the DVX-200], extensively, and it should be ready mid-year." Cravens also said that D-Link will offer the system in five- and 10-phone bundles that each include one base unit.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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