Microsoft Testing HD Audio for Enterprise VoIP

Could arrive in first quarter of next year

AudioCodes, based in Lod, Israel, is developing a product road map that company officials believe will help Microsoft's push into the enterprise voice-over-IP (VoIP) communications space.

Microsoft is considering AudioCodes' VoIP technologies for integration into Microsoft Office Communicator, a client solution that's part of the software giant's Unified Communications product line. The idea is to bring high-definition audio VoIP, branded by AudioCodes as VoIPerfectHD, to the client.

VoIPerfectHD would interface directly into the Microsoft Office Communicator system to provide improved voice quality between Microsoft-based voice customers, said Alan Percey, director of market development at AudioCodes' enterprise business group. Microsoft is one of the vendor's first customers, he said.

"We're a Gold Partner with Microsoft and have been closely working on something called the advanced gateway which would include the real-time wideband audio encoder right in our gateway," he said.

It may not seem like much, but HD audio is a big deal for users, Percey insisted. "We've experienced this internally with our enterprise deployment of Microsoft Office Communicator. The clarity is so much better on the wideband connection that it's by far the preferred connection to talk with each other in the company," he said.

That experience could be a key differentiator for Microsoft as it pushes into the enterprise, competing with traditional voice suppliers such as Avaya and Nortel.

"Just delivering the same thing you used to get with the PSTN, the same quality with no improvement, is a hard sell and you end up having to go on price to get it," Percey said. "By differentiating the service, by Microsoft making Office Communicator use wideband encoders, the service is so much better that not only are customers willing to invest money in it, but they're willing to tell other people to try it [because] they want to be able to talk to people on it."

For now, the product is in the strategy and road-map stage. However, products are expected to hit the market in the first three months of 2009 for both service providers and enterprise customers -- "and Microsoft is one of them," Percey concluded.

-- Jim Barthold

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