As first reported in WinInfo Daily UPDATE, Microsoft will ship its Greenwich server beta as Microsoft Real-Time Communications (RTC) Server 2003 when the company completes the product late this summer. RTC Server will give enterprises rich, secure, extensible, and manageable Instant Messaging (IM) capabilities, the company says, letting workers collaborate and share information more quickly. RTC Server is based on the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) technology that Microsoft first introduced in Windows Messenger, part of Windows XP. Final licensing for RTC Server is forthcoming, Microsoft says.

"The take-off of Instant Messaging in the enterprise, even on an unmanaged basis, has shown how valuable real-time communications and presence is to today's information worker," said Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of the Real-Time Messaging and Platform Group. "With RTC Server, we believe we're delivering the first step toward what our customers have told us they need to take advantage of this evolving communications landscape: an enterprise Instant Messaging and real-time communications server that is manageable, extensible, based on industry standards, and can form part of a company's strategic communications infrastructure."

Answering at least one question about how Microsoft will license RTC Server, the company announced that a free subset of the technology will be available for Windows Server 2003. This subset will ship as an add-on to Windows 2003 and will provide presence functionality, letting users track whether other users are online. Using this information, the company says, third parties can build new applications and Web services that provide notifications to employees within an enterprise. Whether the presence add-on is functionally identical to the original Windows 2003 real-time communications features is unclear. (Microsoft originally slated RTC Server's functionality to ship as part of Windows 2003 but pulled the technology out of the OS late last year, citing diverging development paths and an expansion of the capabilities it wanted to supply in the real-time communications space.) Microsoft will also ship a software developer kit (SDK) concurrently with RTC Server and the add-on, giving programmers access to the new products' functionality.