Microsoft ties LCS to mobile devices

Users of Microsoft's Live Communications Server (LCS) will be able to access this enterprise instant messaging platform from mobile devices, the Redmond, Washington, vendor plans to announce Tuesday.

Microsoft is developing a client front end to LCS that will go into beta testing in the second half of this year and that will be based on the Windows Mobile operating system.

The mobile front end's user interface will be based on LCS' new PC-based client, Microsoft Office Communicator 2005, formerly called Istanbul, a Microsoft executive said.

"With the new [LCS] Windows Mobile client, we're providing instant messaging and presence to wireless users ... and creating a user experience that is reminiscent of what we have on the desktop," said David Sokolic, group program manager in Microsoft's Live Communications Group.

The development of the mobile client responds to companies' increasing demands to give users, particularly those who travel a lot, access to LCS while they are away from their desks, Sokolic said.

The mobile client will be designed to run over a variety of wireless networks and will feature an application programming interface (API) for third-party developers, he said.

Demand for mobile IM connectivity isn't big today but it is growing, said E. Brent Kelly, an industry analyst with Wainhouse Research. About half of enterprise users currently use instant messaging, and there is an emerging desire among them to make this functionality portable, he said.

"The really significant thing about this is that it gives you the ability to see presence information and to quickly instant message your colleagues from anywhere you happen to be in the world," Kelly said.

"When someone leaves the office they lose most of that [IM] real time connectivity that people are finding so valuable. Now imagine being able to step out of the office and still have that presence capability and the ability to shoot a quick instant message. It increases the speed of business," Kelly said.

The mobile client will run on Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition and Windows Mobile 5.0. Three types of devices will immediately be supported: the Pocket PC, Pocket PC Phone Edition and Smartphone.

Meanwhile, Research In Motion is announcing Tuesday that it is developing an LCS client front-end for its BlackBerry wireless device that is expected to be available by the end of this year.

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