A new acronym has been added for ISVs to consider offering your customers. This month Communications as a Service (CaaS) is explained in an article in Dr Dobbs Journal, CaaS: Communications-as-a-Service, by Charles Studt who is vice president of product management for IntelePeer and Joseph Hofstader who is a senior architect in Microsoft Communications Sector. The article explains, “CaaS brings social networking, cloud computing, and smartphones together, providing cloud-technologies that let users communicate via voice, text, and rich media on whatever device they prefer to use.”

Business applications using CaaS include CRM, Call Center Services, Customer Support Centers, Telecom Carriers, and Web 2.0 applications.

The article goes on to describe how CaaS applies in hosted environment. No specific vendor technology is mentioned in the article, so I thought I’d add some that Microsoft offers to add to the discussion. Microsoft is all about customer choice; we call is Software + Services. Some hosted, some available through ISV, some in the cloud. And Microsoft is about being a platform where you as ISVs add value.

So for those of you looking to add some significant value to your application, here are some compelling technologies for you to consider when you are looking to add communication offerings to your products.

Who wouldn’t like to find the expert who can address the issue without having to leave the middle of the application to pick up the phone or chat? So you can add the ability to phone or chat from within your application. And you can build those applications faster than ever before.

Dynamics CRM

dynamics Dynamics CRM is a platform for both CRM and for companies wanting to rapidly build line-of-business applications.  We sometimes call it Dynamics XRM platform internally because of the power to build all kinds of great applications. So if you are looking to track and update information, build workflows around that information in a cost effective way, you have an application that is an ideal candidate for Dynamics CRM.

Deploy on-demand or on-premise—and easily switch options if your needs change. Your customer can buy it outright, finance, or subscribe. They use it within Microsoft Office Outlook, a Web browser, a custom portal, a Microsoft Office SharePoint portal, or a mobile device. ISVs host Dynamics CRM or provide on-premise solutions using the same code base. And the ability for ISVs to add value to Dynamics CRM in the Microsoft-hosted cloud platform is coming.

Learn about Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the Microsoft Partner Program. Or, if you are already a Microsoft partner, explore a specialization in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. To find out more about how developers can get started using Dynamics CRM, see Dynamics CRM on MSDN.

Office Communicator

Office Communicator provides the user experience that combines instant messaging, voice, video, and user desktop. The Enhanced Presence framework allows users to publish their own presence and query or subscribe to the presence of others. The presence information shows users availability, willingness or capabilities to communicate. With Microsoft Office Communicator, you can seamlessly transition from an IM conversation to a voice or video conversation. You can even add application sharing to the conversation.

ISVs can add value in your existing applications by adding presence indicators. These are icons and links in your application that show user availability to receive communications. You can add Presence in Web Applications or Presence in Managed Applications. Also available are WPF Presence Controls for Microsoft Office Communicator 2007.

You can find end-to-end sample applications Unified Communications Sample Downloads. One sample application makes use of an AJAX/JavaScript client that communicates with the Microsoft Office Communicator Web Access 2007 server to provide a Web-based Live Chat solution that connects with a Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 server.

For samples on how to add support for Office Communicator in your application, see Unified Communications Sample Downloads.

Office Communications Server

ZA102451551033 Microsoft’s Unified Communications (UC) solutions use the power of software to streamline communications. Office Communications Server 2007 R2, one of the cornerstones of Microsoft’s UC solution, is the platform for presence, instant messaging, conferencing, and enterprise voice for businesses around the world.

ISVs also add value to applications by integrating with Communications Server when a user needs additional help or needs some additional expertise. Adding this kind of value is often as easy as adding workflows into your application that integrate with Communications Server.

For more information for developers, see Office Communications Developer Portal on MSDN. And Office Communications can be virtualized for your development efforts.

Speech Server

With Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 Speech Server, you can develop and deploy interactive voice response (IVR) applications. Speech Server combines speech technologies, Voice over IP (VoIP), and telephony capabilities into a single system and a single code base. Speech Server is free.

Live Services

Live Framework provides tools to integrate with your users using all of Live. To digress for a moment, you can find a  step-by-step walkthrough that guides you through using the Live Framework Tools to create, build, deploy and debug a simple DHTML and Silverlight Mesh-enabled Web Application. Mesh lets you synchronize information among the user’s devices. Live Framework also allows you to integrate with the information in your user’s Live account, with their permission. For more information about how to get started, see Microsoft Cloud Computing Tools.

Windows Live Contacts Control is a straight forward control you can put on your Web page. It lets you share a specific list of contacts, such as sales agents or customer service reps, directly on your Web site. You can set this up in a matter of minutes. The Windows Live Contacts control is a client-side browser JavaScript object that enables visitors to use their Windows Live Contacts with your Web site. In "List View," a user can choose to share contact information with your Web site. In "Tile View" users see their contacts presence information, and can initiate a Messenger conversation with a contact that has a custom message pre-populated in the conversation. For more information, see Contacts Control on MSDN.

Customer Care Framework

Microsoft Customer Care Framework (CCF) is a Microsoft .NET-based framework which may be used to address issues faced by service providers caused by multiple line-of-business systems while interacting with their customers. CCF enables organizations to create an aggregated custom UI for customer care staff, by combining data elements from disparate applications (mainframes, databases, or web sites) and displaying data into a single UI.

Resources

Your applications are about helping your customers solve problems. Adding the ability to communicate with problem solvers can add great value to your application. Microsoft has a set of frameworks, servers, and cloud offerings that can help.