Microsoft has unveiled the latest version of its corporate instant messaging (IM) presence-awareness and collaboration server, which it claims will boost productivity and decision-making by connecting people, information and business processes in real time.
It has opened the beta programme for Microsoft Office Live Communications Server (LCS) 2005, which was previously code-named 'Vienna'.
The product integrates within Microsoft Office System applications, servers and services, so that connected staff can see in real time who is online and available.
LCS 2005 adds the ability to allow presence information and IM to be extended to partners, suppliers and customers outside of the main corporate network.
Microsoft said this was designed to enable two or more organisations to communicate and collaborate in real time in an encrypted, authenticated and managed environment.
The program adds the ability for users to access presence and encrypted IM capabilities via a Virtual Private Network when they are outside the corporate network. Deeper management options and administrative tools also have been added.
The company hailed the 2005 release as "substantially" more reliable than the previous version.
Gurdeep Singh Pall, general manager of Microsoft's live communications group, added in a statement: "The value of IM and presence significantly increases as more users are added to the network."
The full commercial product is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of 2004.
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