Microsoft (News - Alert) had a whirlwind of announcements at ITEXPO West 2008 last September in Los Angeles, California and at the show, I had a chance to meet with XD Huang , Microsoft General Manager and Richard Sprague, Senior Director about Response Point to discuss how the company envisions changing the communications landscape.
The first thing worth pointing out is the Microsoft Response Point team considers themselves to be a nimble "startup" at the software behemoth. The thirty people working in this product group seem to be very hard working and as they tell me, they work 24x7. Evidence of this is the SP1 release which came out about six months after the product was initially released.
Interestingly the release is so significant - adding a full-featured UC client and other features, it would have qualified for Version 2.0 designation. Realizing this moniker would have amounted in about three months of internal red tape, the company decided to just call the upgrade SP1.
In addition to the news, the company will work on joint marketing with SIP trunking provider 8x8 and Microsoft also announced it will support SIP trunking services from Bandwidth.com.
Beyond services however, the company had a number of new hardware partners they announced at the show as well. Gateways from Aastra and Quintum were on display as well as an Astra version of Response Point. There was also a conferencing device from ClearOne which has the magic blue button the small but mighty phone system utilizes. In short this blue button is how you communicate with the phone system allowing speech recognition to perform tasks like transferring calls. The blue button can also be directed at incoming callers allowing speech recognition to assist in directing phone calls.
The pair touted the fact that their solution really simplifies telephony allowing a small business owner or data VAR comfortable with setting up a printer to set up their phone system as well.
XD was very proud to tell me that his group moves fast. They all work along the same hallway and talk to customers often, meaning they can implement changes rapidly. In addition, due to the success of this new start-up within Microsoft, XD now commands two other start ups in the IP communications space and we should all keep a watchful eye on his progress as he seems to have a passion for simplifying telephony while simultaneously improving it. XD feels Response Point is a disruptive force and it seems he is happy to keep disrupting away.
I asked about what the partner response has been to Response Point (pun not intended) and the answer came back that the simplicity of the system is something they want to be associated with. The partners also mention, and Microsoft acknowledges, that while simple to use, the phone system is not as full-featured as others on the market but for 80 percent of companies, Response Point should work fine.
Other points worth mentioning are that Costco sales of Response Point are ahead of expectations, returns are minimal and a number of customers came back to Costco to buy more phones to add on to their systems.
Right now, Response Point works for up to 50 users but it is worth pointing out that Microsoft OCS is designed for enterprises of 250 and above. It is likely that future versions of Response Point will support 249 users and moreover as the system scales, we can likely expect more innovation from the company.
Like I mentioned earlier, Response Point is not well-known yet but Microsoft is hard at work focusing on external communication and we can expect the Response Point brand to become a force in the communications space. As this happens, there will be pressure on existing SMB PBX (News - Alert) players and opportunity to work with Microsoft to add value to their solutions. None of this will happen overnight but product manufacturers need to have regular meetings to ensure they have a strategy to take them into a world where a nimble new Microsoft has a plethora of solutions which will appeal to their customers.
If you want to learn more about what is happening with Response Point, be sure to register and attend ITEXPO this February 2-4 2009 in Miami.
Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO (News - Alert)). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi