This morning, Microsoft announced the delivery of Greenwich Beta 1, the first widely available version of the upcoming Microsoft Real-Time Communications (RTC) Server, which will ship in mid-2003. Originally slated for release late last week, the Greenwich beta release gives Windows Server 2003 customers enterprise-capable Instant Messaging (IM) functionality, including integration with MSN Messenger Connect, simple administration, and IM logging and security features. Microsoft has yet to announce pricing for the product.

"The delivery of this beta represents a milestone in the development of the Greenwich technology, which is a component of delivering Microsoft's overall real-time collaboration vision," said Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Real-Time Collaboration Business Unit. "We seek to profoundly change how corporations communicate, by bringing together best-of-breed presence and instant-messaging technologies with enterprise-grade control and manageability. Presence-based communications will revolutionize the way information workers collaborate, in the same way email changed corporate communications in the late 1980s and early 1990s."

Microsoft believes that companies that want to deploy secure IM throughout their enterprises and in exchange with their partners and customers will adopt Greenwich. But IM is only the initial application in Microsoft's RTC strategy. The company says that future applications will build on the Greenwich platform and will let users collaborate in richer ways than simple text messages. In the past, Microsoft touted video conferencing and remote desktop and application sharing as obvious applications of RTC technology. "We see new real-time scenarios being developed--integrating phones or real-time work collaboration solutions--anything that our industry partners can imagine with presence and collaborative elements," said Katy Hunter, Greenwich group product manager. "Developing Greenwich means that users will be able to count on a great client experience, expanding from text to richer media in their communications. This will include video and voice, along with text and application sharing."