Microsoft Drops Small Business Phone Software

by Stuart J. Johnston

Despite Microsoft's attempt to get in on the ground floor of small business unified communications, the company now admits it was a losing battle.

After Microsoft put its Response Point small-business phone system onto "engineering maintenance" a year ago, the company this week is killing off the ill-fated package for a lack of sales.

"Despite favorable initial response from customers and channel partners since launch, we have not seen the necessary demand materialize to sustain Response Point as a viable standalone business," a post to Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Response Point blog said Tuesday.

As of the end of August, Microsoft will quit selling, supporting and updating the Response Point system. However, customers who purchased phones running Response Point will be able to continue using their phone systems "as per their equipment manufacturer purchase agreement," the post added.

Response Point, which came bundled with phone systems, includes a simplified VoIP system, as well as support for analog phone lines, and also provides interactive voice response (IVR) support. The software and hardware combo was first introduced in conjunction with Microsoft's Small Business Summit (SBS) in March 2007. The company signed up small business phone manufacturers including Aastra Technologies, D-Link, and Quanta Computer to sell phone systems with the Response Point software pre-installed.

Microsoft issued Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Response Point during the summer of 2008.

However, despite surveys near the beginning of the recession that showed small businesses were optimistic about IT spending growth, those positive feelings soon headed south.

Phone system makers will be able to continue selling Response Point-based systems until Aug. 31, and Microsoft said that the Response Point site will continue to operate until Nov. 1, 2011. Customers who bought the systems will need to contact their reseller or vendor regarding refunds.

In the meantime, Microsoft is working to shift users over to its enterprise-level unified communications products.

"To continue to support the needs of the small business community, we expect to consolidate our efforts and offerings in this space around Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS)," the blog post said.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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This article was originally published on Thursday May 20th 2010
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