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Microsoft bridges gap between IM services

Security improvements and connectivity with popular public IM clients are included in the new Service Pack 1 for Office Live Communications Server.

Microsoft this week shipped a service pack for its Office Live Communications Server that adds several features aimed at IT professionals.

Live Communications Server 2005 Service Pack 1 (LCS SP1) offers federated connectivity with several public instant messaging clients, including MSN, AOL and Yahoo. LCS SP1 will support the Microsoft Office Communicator client -- code-named Istanbul -- when it becomes available mid-year. It also offers improved security with URL blocking and filters for spim, or IM spam.

"The public IM connectivity is what I find most exciting," said Erica Rugullies, an analyst at Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Mass., consulting firm. "What it lets Microsoft do is position this as a product that can connect to a few public networks."

But Rugullies said the software cannot connect to other business networks, such as IBM Lotus' Sametime, for example.

LCS SP1 supports both the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and SIP Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE) standards. The software works with other SIP services, such as audio, video and whiteboards. It requires Windows Server 2003. Microsoft released Office Live Communications Server in December 2004.

LCS SP1 was promised by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates at a New York event last February in which he introduced his vision for communication and collaboration tools.

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