Happy New Year!  I'm looking forward to 2006 -- I'll have my relocation related distractions out of the way and will really be able to dig in to my new job at Microsoft.  I'm really excited about the Orcas release, the approach we are taking with planning that release, my project (Cider Extensibility), and the whole move to the Pacific Northwest (even though it is quite wet and gray).

Today at an Orcas planning session, I was thinking about how much I enjoyed going to PDC, TechED, SDRs or other Microsoft events.  I used to have to pay money for that (i.e. have my company pay money for that) and now I get to go to meetings where that kind of information is shared as a part of my job!  Not only that, I get to work on this stuff.  Amazing.

Anyhow, the subject of this post is about something a friend of mine pointed me to -- Microsoft Office Communicator.  At first glance it looks like MSN Messenger but it is so not that.  For one thing it provides private messaging.  Feature wise it's a full fledged work tool.  It integrates with Outlook and your telephones.

Integration with Outlook includes synchronizing your availability, out of office messages, status (will display "In a meeting" when you have an appointment), and other information like phone number, title, and email address with Outlook.  For example, right-clicking on a contact and clicking "properties" will bring up that persons contact information from the Outlook directory.  Let me put that a different way, you will no long have to ask your coworkers "Hey, what's your IM username and which one do you use, Yahoo, Google, MSN, ICQ or AOL?".

Integration with your telephones means that when I get a phone call to my office phone, if I'm signed in to Communicator, I get notified of the call via Communicator, no matter where I am physically in the world.  I can then forward the call on the fly to another phone or even to my PC. 

I can initiate phone calls on my office phone from Communicator (it'll dial for me) to any of the phone numbers my contacts make available or even to his/her PC.  I can even use my location or status to trigger call forwarding.  How cool is that?

And of course you can use it for instant messages, sharing, file sharing, conferences, video, live meeting or to ask for remote assistance.

Call me, call me, come on, I want to see Communicator come up with a phone call notification so I can forward the call on the fly to my cell phone, even though I'm in my office...

P.S. I'm sure I missed features, check out the product info here