Today the interns got together and I got to host a q&a session, which is always a highlight of the summer for me. Beforehand I get emailed tons of questions from our 100+ interns working on Office and Information Worker software. There are many cool themes to the questions.

One question I loved was "What do you think is the most fascinating area of technology under development today and what is Microsoft doing in this area?"

Of course I could go on about the amazing new releases of many products - all of them significant in their innovation they will bring to the market and for customers, but I’m probably biased :-)

One product that came to mind is the new Microsoft Communicator product. There was another question about how to handle "information overload" which is related. I think of my day and I see incoming email, incoming instant messenger sessions, phone calls (mobile and work land line), and all the RSS feeds I get (just to name a few). The PC provides a great tool to help to manage these and Microsoft Office Communicator is a new product that helps to manage this (you can see more info on Office Communicator).

We just got Communicator hooked up for Microsoft and it has some cool features for managing all the inbound stuff, especially when used in combination with Outlook. There are some neat features which really save me a ton of time:

Whenever I’m using my office phone, the IM status indicator changes to "on phone" because Communicator is connected to Microsoft’s PBX. It is a small thing, but it really makes a big difference.

  • In addition, when I get an inbound call, because of the integration we’ve done I see the caller-ID pop up from the Communicator UI which is also pretty cool. A weird side effect is that even when I’m using my laptop and wireless I see the caller ID on phone calls I get in my office – that’s sort of not useful, but also a neat computer trick.
  • The biggest time save is that the combination of Communicator and Microsoft’s Live Communications server allows me to integrate with AOL and Yahoo messenger. My mother uses Yahoo and my family uses AOL (oops!) so this is super helpful to me during work when I need to get in touch with people during the day or vice versa.
  • There is of course integration with Outlook so when I get mail from someone I see their current presence information in the message header and can start an IM right away.

The technology is still new for sure and definitely has some work to do on the user experience (IMHO). I really look forward to the even deeper integration with new technologies like voip providers and the like (I am a VOIP user for our primary land line at home).

That was just one of the many questions I got. I’ve answered a bunch in email as well. I will keep the discussion going on this blog as well.

Have a good day,

Steven